Sara Glithro

Qualifications: BSc (Hons), MChiro Location: Bournemouth, UK



Neuroplasticity and chronic low back pain: An investigation into altered tactile discrimination, body schema and motor function.

Chronic low back pain (CLBP) ranks 3rd in the Global Burden of non-communicable diseases, behind heart disease and stroke.  A painful, long-term condition contributing to increased morbidity, low quality-of-life and a huge socio-economic burden. Tissue damage and other clinical features are often absent and aetiologies remain unknown. Typically focused on pain relief and improving motor function, treatment outcomes remain moderate at best with one approach no better than another and many sufferers stop seeking help.

In Phantom Limb Pain and Complex Regional Pain Syndrome, cortical neurophysiology and sensory outputs such as body schema and perception are altered. Novel interventions to reverse these impairments coincide with a reduction in pain intensity. CLBP shares some clinical features with PLP and CRPS so it is plausible that novel interventions may improve CLBP outcomes. Identifying the existence of such sensory outputs in the CLBP population was the first step.


A systematic review returned nine studies which explored tactile discrimination, body schema and motor function in adults with CLBP.  Critically; none explored all three aspects but high pain and disability scores differentiated participants from the mild-to-moderately affected population I was interested in investigating. Additionally, different methods and small sample numbers revealed significant knowledge gaps.

My research aimed to the issue and explored tactile acuity, body schema, motor function, back perception and a range of clinical outcomes in a sample of 31 adults with mild-to-moderate CBLP and a matched-control group.