Back pain

By better understanding the underlying causes of back pain, our goal is to develop better treatments and preventative measures to improve the quality of life for individuals suffering from this common and often debilitating condition.

Low back pain can be classified as acute (less than three months in duration) and chronic (low back pain lasting three months or longer). It is now widely accepted that changes in the nervous system, including the brain, play an important role in pain persisting long after tissues have healed.

Back pain is the leading cause of disability worldwide and results in substantial personal and societal costs. A quarter of Australians report low back pain at any one time. However, over 90% of all low back pain problems cannot be attributed to a serious cause (such as fracture, cancer, infection) and are termed as non-specific low back pain. 

Most people with non-specific back pain recover within six weeks. Staying active, getting informed and avoiding bed rest usually speeds up recovery. However, many people continue to experience chronic low back pain for months or even years and some are unable to continue their work. 

In general, non-drug interventions such as exercise, cognitive behaviour therapy and mindfulness are recommended for the management of chronic low back pain rather than drug and surgical approaches. However, non-drug interventions for chronic low back pain still offer limited effects to reduce pain and disability.

Our research approaches

NeuRA aims to understand why some people with low back pain do not recover and develop chronic low back pain. We are also developing and testing new interventions to prevent and treat chronic low back pain. 

Our research discoveries 

Through our RESOLVE trial, we have been investigating the effectiveness of new non-drug treatment programs for people suffering from chronic low back pain. Research shows that there are changes in the brain when someone has pain for a long period of time. It is believed that these changes make recovery from pain slower and more difficult. Using the knowledge of the brain and how it changes with pain, researchers at NeuRA developed two new treatment programs for chronic low back pain.