Preoperative pain neuroscience education for lumbar radiculopathy: a multicenter randomized controlled trial with 1-year follow-up

Spine (Phila Pa 1976). 2014 Aug 15;39(18):1449-57. doi: 10.1097/BRS.0000000000000444.


Study design: Multicenter, randomized, controlled trial on preoperative pain neuroscience education (NE) for lumbar radiculopathy.

Objective: To determine if the addition of NE to usual preoperative education would result in superior outcomes with regard to pain, function, surgical experience, and health care utilization postsurgery.

Summary of background data: One in 4 patients after lumbar surgery (LS) for radiculopathy experience persistent pain and disability, which is nonresponsive to perioperative treatments. NE focusing on the neurophysiology of pain has been shown to decrease pain and disability in populations with chronic low back pain.

Methods: Eligible patients scheduled for LS for radiculopathy were randomized to receive either preoperative usual care (UC) or a combination of UC plus 1 session of NE delivered by a physical therapist (verbal one-on-one format) and a NE booklet. Sixty-seven patients completed the following outcomes prior to LS (baseline), and 1, 3, 6, and 12 months after LS: low back pain (numeric rating scale), leg pain (numeric rating scale), function (Oswestry Disability Index), various beliefs and experiences related to LS (10-item survey with Likert scale responses), and postoperative utilization of health care (utilization of health care questionnaire).

Results: At 1-year follow-up, there were no statistical differences between the experimental and control groups with regard to primary outcome measure of low back pain (P = 0.183), leg pain (P = 0.075), and function (P = 0.365). In a majority of the categories regarding surgical experience, the NE group scored significantly better: better prepared for LS (P = 0.001); preoperative session preparing them for LS (P < 0.001) and LS meeting their expectations (P = 0.021). Health care utilization post-LS also favored the NE group (P = 0.007) resulting in 45% less health care expenditure compared with the control group in the 1-year follow-up period.

Conclusion: NE resulted in significant behavior change. Despite a similar pain and functional trajectory during the 1-year trial, patients with LS who received NE viewed their surgical experience more favorably and used less health care facility in the form of medical tests and treatments.

Level of evidence: 2.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Cost-Benefit Analysis
  • Disability Evaluation
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Leg / physiopathology
  • Low Back Pain / physiopathology
  • Low Back Pain / psychology
  • Lumbar Vertebrae / surgery*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neurosciences / education*
  • Outcome Assessment, Health Care / economics
  • Outcome Assessment, Health Care / methods
  • Pain / physiopathology
  • Pain / psychology
  • Pain Measurement / methods
  • Patient Education as Topic / economics
  • Patient Education as Topic / methods*
  • Preoperative Care / economics
  • Preoperative Care / methods
  • Radiculopathy / physiopathology
  • Radiculopathy / psychology
  • Radiculopathy / surgery*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires