Low back pain is a challenge for clinicians and researchers, due to the large variability in clinical presentation, lack of consensus regarding diagnostic criteria or clinical classification; wide variation in course and prognosis, and limited success in identifying effective treatments. However, increasing research efforts has generated an expanding body of evidence on the epidemiology, prognosis and treatment of back pain. This paper presents four key developments in research and clinical practice, and describes how these can influence the future direction of back pain research: (1) the increasing awareness of the impact of low back pain on population health; (2) new approaches to describing and investigating course and prognosis of back pain; (3) the need to better understand the bio-psycho-social mechanisms or pathways that explain impact and long-term outcomes in order to inform intervention research; and (4) the potential for stratified models of care to improve patient outcomes and efficiency of care for back pain.
Keywords: Back pain; Intervention studies; Prognosis; Public health; Research priorities.
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