Pain, perception and function in patients with chronic low back pain
Chronic low back pain affects 6-11% of the UK adult population, yet despite its ubiquitous presence; it remains difficult to treat. It may be that identifying sub-groups within the large and heterogeneous CLBP population could aid in finding alternative treatment approaches to this often debilitating condition.
Chronic musculoskeletal pain conditions are often evaluated and diagnosed in terms of impaired motor function, pain intensity and duration. However, chronic pain sufferers may experience abnormal pain which is produced by the central nervous system (CNS), not the peripheral tissues. This could be linked to altered sensory and motor function. My PhD builds upon the findings from an AECC/Bournemouth University pilot study in which chronic low back pain patients were found to have altered proprioception of the lumbar spine during a specific motor function task, when compared to matched pain-free counterparts.
In other chronic pain conditions such as chronic regional pain syndrome and phantom limb pain, altered sensory and motor functions are associated with altered primary somatosensory (S1) and primary motor (M1) cortical body-maps. Intervention studies in these conditions appear to improve cortical organisation of body maps and also reduce pain intensity. My exploratory research will investigate differences in groups of chronic low back pain patients and pain-free volunteers while they undertake a variety of sensory and motor function tasks. The resulting data will be analysed to identify differences between the pain and pain-free groups. It is hoped that by investigating the interplay between the pain producing structures, the expression of pain by the CNS and its relationship to the sensory and motor systems may contribute to our understanding of alternative treatment approaches for those with CLBP.
My PhD began in October 2014 and submission of my thesis for examination by viva is expected by October 2017.