Almost everyone experiences back pain at least once in lifetime. A quarter of Australians report low back pain at any one time. It is the leading cause of disability worldwide and results in substantial personal and societal costs. Low back pain costs the Australian health system over 9 billion dollars each year. Over 90% of all low back pain problems cannot be attributed to a serious cause (such as fracture, cancer, infection) and are termed as non-specific low back pain. Low back pain can be classified as acute (less than three months in duration) and chronic (low back pain lasting three months or longer).
Most people with non-specific back pain recover within six weeks. Staying active, getting informed and avoiding bed rest usually speeds up recovery. However, many people continue to experience chronic low back pain for months or even years and some are unable to continue their work. It is now widely accepted that changes in the nervous system including the brain, play an important role in pain persisting long after tissues have healed.
In general, non-drug interventions such as exercise, cognitive behavior therapy and mindfulness are recommended for the management of chronic low back pain rather than drug and surgical approaches. However, non-drug interventions for chronic low back pain still offer limited effects to reduce pain and disability.
About our research
The Centre for Pain IMPACT aims to understand why some people with low back pain do not recover and develop chronic low back pain. We are also developing and testing new interventions to prevent and treat chronic low back pain. See below links to our past and current projects in low back pain.
Research from our Centre has been included and cited in several international clinical practice guidelines.
Participate in our future research
To participate in back pain research in the future, please leave your details below:
Prof James McAuley, Senior Research Scientist and Director of the Centre for Pain IMPACT at NeuRA, has a strong philosophy of taking knowledge obtained by research beyond the confines of academia and into the community. To achieve this, James and his research team have been giving presentations to community groups on their latest research and scientific findings. These free, one-hour presentations are popular and well received. If you are interested in booking Prof McAuley and his team for a presentation or for further information, please contact our team: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Social media is a potentially powerful tool to provide a message of education and reassurance to the general public about low back pain. This project will use social media to educate the general public about low back pain and promote self-management.
The project involves three stages. Firstly, we will conduct a content analysis to gain an insight into social media users’ perceptions and understanding about low back pain. This could determine whether social media could serve as an educational tool through which accurate information related to low back pain could be disseminated to the public.
Second, a recent Delphi survey of 150 low back pain researchers identified 30 key messages considered to be important for the general public to know about LBP. These statements provide evidence-based information on the diagnosis, prognosis and management of LBP and are intended to educate, reassure and promote self-management. We will investigate the attitude of the general public towards these messages.
Third, working in conjunction with a media company Y&R, we will design and test a social media campaign to encourage self-management for people with low back pain.
Low back pain (LBP) is ranked as the top single cause of disability worldwide. Costs have risen faster than for any other health condition and LBP is now equal to ischemic heart disease, and second only to cancer, as the costliest health condition. Approximately 40% of people who experience acute LBP develop chronic pain. These individuals are unresponsive to treatment, experience high levels of pain, struggle to perform daily tasks and frequently develop psychosocial comorbidities. The enormous scale of the problem is matched only by the mystery that accompanies it: despite decades of research, why some people develop chronic LBP while others do not, remains unknown.
The identification of biomarkers that can predict who will develop chronic LBP is a holy grail of pain research. Our new research has uncovered evidence for a unique biomarker signature that appears to predict i) an individual’s susceptibility to high pain severity, even before pain begins and ii) an individual’s susceptibility to developing chronic LBP following an acute episode. These biomarkers are now undergoing detailed investigation in on-going studies.
Medicines are the most common treatment for back pain. The aim of this program of research is to improve our understanding of the clinical effects of medicines.
Studies currently in progress:
Medicines for Back Pain – Publications:
Medicines for Back Pain – Registrations of Study Protocols:
On August 11 2019, 54 people took on the City2Surf for Neuroscience Research Australia (NeuRA). The event is the world’s largest fun run with 80,000 participants taking on the 14km course, which stretches from Hyde Park in central Sydney to the iconic Bondi Beach. NeuRA thanks all of its fundraisers, who raised an incredible $30,903. This funding will further NeuRA’s […]