Walking away from chronic low back pain

Researchers from the Rehabilitation Research Group are investigating whether certain proteins in the body can predict which people are more likely to develop chronic symptoms of back pain. This research could also lead to improved pharmaceutical and physical interventions.

Chronic low back pain (CLBP) is a common, disabling and expensive public health concern. A key question is why a significant proportion of patients with low back pain have ongoing pain and disability, while for others the problem resolves. 

Research into the reasons for ongoing low back pain within western societies has focused on physical factors (posture and spinal loading), personal factors (age and weight), and a range of psychological factors, including stress and depression. 

Although our understanding of this complex disorder has improved, effective management remains elusive and the burden of CLBP has been increasing.  

Identifying potential pathways

Research has investigated the potential role of specific proteins in the blood (biomarkers) that signal the presence of disease or injury in spinal pain. As part of this ongoing research, members of the Rehabilitation Research Group will first review what information is already known about the role of biomarkers for CLBP, then use this to fine-tune which specific biomarkers to further monitor in CLBP patients. 

We will then recruit 30 people with CLBP and 20 healthy people from the community, taking blood samples that will allow us to make comparisons of biomarker levels in each group. Any differences found between the groups will help us to understand the role specific biomarkers may play in CLBP.

Evidence of differences in biomarkers in the CLBP group will lead to an application for funding from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research to look at whether biomarkers play a role in predicting which people are more likely to develop chronic symptoms.  

There is also potential to investigate pharmaceutical and physical interventions that can target such biomarkers. Given the high prevalence of CLBP, identifying potential pathways for more effective interventions will have considerable health benefits. 


Rehabilitation Research Group

The University of Nottingham
School of Health Sciences
Queen's Medical Centre
Nottingham, NG7 2HA

telephone: +44 (0)115 823 0843