By: 6 April 2016
Feinstein Institute clinical study reveals new approach to diagnosing low back pain

Feinstein Institute clinical study reveals new approach to diagnosing low back pain

Scientists at The Feinstein Institute for Medical Research have discovered a new, personalised approach to diagnosing low back pain. The findings from a clinical study show that serum levels of the proinflammatory cytokine interleukin-6 (IL-6) vary in individuals with lumbar intervertebral disc disease and that biochemical profiling of circulating cytokines may assist in refining personalised diagnoses of disc diseases. These findings are published in Arthritis Research and Therapy.

Low back pain is the second most common cause of physician visits in the USA and contributes to an estimated $100 billion in costs per year, making it clear that it causes a significant burden on both the healthcare system and the economy. Physicians trying to diagnose low back pain are looking at many potential causes and unpredictable responses to treatment. Low back pain is caused by multiple triggers that present in similar ways. Some of the most common diagnoses include intervertebral disc herniation, spinal stenosis and degenerative disc disease.

The researchers looked at the biochemical profile of participants with low back pain. They studied cytokine proteins, specifically IL-6, to determine how they influenced the behaviour and pain levels of those with low back pain. They also looked at whether body mass index, symptom duration or age had any effect on those serum levels.

Nadeen Chahine, associate investigator at the Feinstein Institute who led the clinical study, said: “We’re very excited by the results of this clinical study and will continue to study cytokine levels in the future. Exploring the biochemical profile of those who suffer from low back pain will help the 40 to 80 per cent of sufferers throughout the US.”

Chahine and her team recruited 133 participants who suffered from low back pain as well as a control group. Their findings determined serum levels of IL-6 were significantly higher in subjects with low back pain compared with control participants. Additionally, participants with low back pain due to spinal stenosis or degenerative disc disease also had higher levels than those with intervertebral disc herniation and controls.

Their findings suggest that patients with low back pain have low-grade systemic inflammation and that biochemical profiling of circulating cytokines could help low back pain sufferers to get the correct diagnosis in a shorter amount of time.