Chronic low back pain: A heterogeneous condition with challenges for an evidence-based approach

Daryl R. Fourney, Gunnar Andersson, Paul M. Arnold, Joseph Dettori, Alex Cahana, Michael G. Fehlings, Dan Norvell, Dino Samartzis, Jens R. Chapman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


"Chronic" low back pain (LBP), defined as present for 3 or more months, has become a major socioeconomic problem insufficiently addressed by five major entities largely working in isolation from one another - procedural based specialties, strength based rehabilitation, cognitive behavioral therapy, pain management and manipulative care. As direct and indirect costs continue to rise, many authors have systematically evaluated the body of evidence in an effort to demonstrate the effectiveness (or lack thereof) for various diagnostic and therapeutic interventions. The objective of this Spine Focus issue is not to replicate previous work in this area. Rather, our expert panel has chosen a set of potentially controversial topics for more in-depth study and discussion. A recurring theme is that chronic LBP is a heterogeneous condition, and this affects the way it is diagnosed, classified, treated, and studied. The efficacy of some treatments may be appreciated only through a better understanding of heterogeneity of treatment effects (i.e., identification of clinically relevant subgroups with differing responses to the same treatment). Current clinical guidelines and payer policies for LBP are systematically compared for consistency and quality. Novel approaches for data gathering, such as national spine registries, may offer a preferable approach to gain meaningful data and direct us towards a "results-based medicine." This approach would require more high-quality studies, more consistent recording for various phenotypes and exploration of studies on genetic epidemiologic undertones to guide us in the emerging era of "results based medicine."

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)S1-S9
Issue number21 SUPPL.
StatePublished - Oct 1 2011
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine
  • Clinical Neurology


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