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Classification System Could Improve Low Back Pain Care

Recognition of patterns of symptoms helps classify heterogeneous condition

FRIDAY, July 24 (HealthDay News) -- Although low back pain is a heterogeneous condition, recognizing patterns in symptoms can help to classify it and guide more effective treatment, according to a study in the August issue of The Spine Journal.

Hamilton Hall, M.D., of the University of Toronto, and colleagues conducted a study of 2,110 patients with mechanical low back pain, of whom 1,356 were randomized to classification of symptoms while 754 acted as controls. The control group underwent conventional therapy and encouragement of physical activity, while the classification group were seen by staff trained to use the low back pain classification system to put the patients into one of four groups for different modes of treatment.

The odds of reporting no pain after treatment were between two and 10 times higher among the patients in the classification group versus the controls, and the odds of taking no medication were two to four times higher, the investigators note. Patients in the classification group were also more likely to report significant pain reduction, significant increase in functional scores and less treatment days, the researchers found.

"Treatment results may significantly improve with the initial determination of clinically relevant syndromes that are then used to guide therapy," the authors write. "Classifying low back pain based on pattern recognition shows promise to help clarify future clinical trials and surgical referrals."

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