New test 'to decipher causes of back pain'

Back pain treatment could be set to improve after researchers discovered a new test which may be able to differentiate between causes, it was revealed yesterday (April 8th).

Scientists from Massachusetts General Hospital in the US and Addenbrooke's in the UK performed a simple 'bedside' study on 300 patients suffering from chronic back pain.

They found that the process, which is detailed in PLoS Medicine, enabled them to distinguish between neuropathic pain - a sharp, stabbing sensation caused by nerve damage - and other types of pain.

The team collated the results by establishing six questions and ten physical tests after comparing patients and believe they are superior to those obtained from existing screening tests and MRI scans.

Lead author Joachim Scholz, an assistant professor of anaesthesia, explained that the test could improve the approach currently favoured by clinicians, which involves asking patients to rate their pain on a scale.

"This approach misses key characteristics that reflect the mechanisms causing the pain," he said.

"The treatment of neuropathic and non-neuropathic pain is quite different, and if a diagnosis is wrong, patients may receive treatment, including surgery, that does not improve their pain."

Back pain is the single biggest cause for absenteeism at work, according to the BBC

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