Low Back Pain | Characterizing the Role of Pain Sensitivity in Acute to Persistent Low Back Pain

Low Back Pain research study

What is the primary objective of this study?

This research study will examine whether enhanced pain sensitivity increases the risk of persistent low back pain. The study will address the highly prevalent and costly condition of persistent low back pain and a major obstacle for the implementation of clinical strategies to improve patient outcomes. The knowledge gained from this study may lead to a better understanding of the biological mechanisms that contribute to persistent low back pain and will inform future work to develop predictive measures of persistent low back pain risk, evaluative measures to examine treatment efficacy, and possibly biomarker assay(s) to identify patients who are at increased risk of persistent low back pain.

Who is eligible to participate?

Inclusion Criteria: 1. 18-50 years of age; 2. diagnosed with an acute episode of nonspecific LBP present for >24 hours but <4 weeks duration and preceded by at least 1 pain-free month; and 3. comprehend English Exclusion Criteria: 1. <18 or >50 years of age; 2. chronic pain at another site or associated with a painful condition (eg., fibromyalgia, neuropathy, rheumatoid arthritis); 3. previous spinal surgery; 4. presence of neurological deficits; 5. history of comorbidities that affect sensorimotor function (eg., multiple sclerosis, spinal cord injury, diabetes); and 6. untreated psychological disorders (major depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia)

Which medical condition, disease, disorder, syndrome, illness, or injury is researched?

Low Back Pain

Study Interventions

Interventions can include giving participants drugs, medical devices, procedures, vaccines, and other products that are either investigational or already available or noninvasive approaches such as surveys, education, and interviews.

Study Arms

Research studies and clinical trials typically have two or more research arms. An arm is a group of people who receive the same treatment in the study.

Incident casesPersistent nonspecific low back pain

ControlsAcute low back pain that resolves in <6 months

Study Status


Start Date: October 2013

Completed Date: October 2016


Type: Observational


Primary Outcome: Experimental Pain Threshold

Secondary Outcome: mRNA expression of pain sensitivity genes

Study sponsors, principal investigator, and references

Principal Investigator: Angela R Starkweather, PhD, RN

Lead Sponsor: University of Connecticut

Collaborator: National Institute of Nursing Research (NINR)

More information:

Starkweather AR, Lyon DE, Kinser P, Heineman A, Sturgill JL, Deng X, Siangphoe U, Elswick RK, Greenspan J, Dorsey SG. Comparison of Low Back Pain Recovery and Persistence: A Descriptive Study of Characteristics at Pain Onset. Biol Res Nurs. 2016 Jul;18(4):401-10. doi: 10.1177/1099800416631819. Epub 2016 Feb 16.

Starkweather AR, Ramesh D, Lyon DE, Siangphoe U, Deng X, Sturgill J, Heineman A, Elswick RK Jr, Dorsey SG, Greenspan J. Acute Low Back Pain: Differential Somatosensory Function and Gene Expression Compared With Healthy No-Pain Controls. Clin J Pain. 2016 Nov;32(11):933-939.

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