Objectives: Despite rapidly increasing intervention, functional disability due to chronic low back pain (cLBP) has increased in recent decades. We often cannot identify mechanisms to explain the major negative impact cLBP has on patients' lives. Such cLBP is often termed nonspecific and may be due to multiple biologic and behavioral etiologies. Researchers use varied inclusion criteria, definitions, baseline assessments, and outcome measures, which impede comparisons and consensus. The purpose of this article is to disseminate the report of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) task force on research standards for cLBP.
Methods: The NIH Pain Consortium charged a research task force (RTF) to draft standards for research on cLBP. The resulting multidisciplinary panel developed a 3-stage process, each with a 2-day meeting.
Results: The panel recommended using 2 questions to define cLBP; classifying cLBP by its impact (defined by pain intensity, pain interference, and physical function); use of a minimal data set to describe research subjects (drawing heavily on the Patient Reported Outcomes Measurement Information System methodology); reporting “responder analyses” in addition to mean outcome scores; and suggestions for future research and dissemination. The Pain Consortium has approved these recommendations, which investigators should incorporate into NIH grant proposals.
Conclusions: The RTF believes that these recommendations will advance the field, help to resolve controversies, and facilitate future research addressing the genomic, neurologic, and other mechanistic substrates of cLBP. Greater consistency in reporting should facilitate comparisons among studies and the development of phenotypes. We expect the RTF recommendations will become a dynamic document and undergo continual improvement.
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