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Title: Non-invasive brain stimulation as a novel approach to the treatment of chronic non-specific low back pain
Author: O'Connell, Neil Edward
ISNI:       0000 0004 2731 056X
Awarding Body: Brunel University
Current Institution: Brunel University
Date of Award: 2012
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Chronic non-specific low back pain (CNSLBP) is a widespread but poorly understood condition that places a substantial burden on the sufferer, health services and the wider economy. Existing approaches to management do not demonstrate impressive levels of effectiveness. There is growing evidence that CNSLBP is associated with significant alterations in central nervous system (CNS) structure and function, suggesting a possible role for the brain in the aetiology of the condition, and presenting a case for novel therapies which aim to treat CNSLBP by affecting brain function. One such potential therapeutic approach is non-invasive brain stimulation (NIBS). Following a literature review discussing the epidemiology and management of low back pain, the evidence for altered CNS function and the potential role of brain stimulation in CNSLBP and chronic pain generally this thesis includes 3 original scientific studies: (i) A Cochrane systematic review of the effectiveness of NIBS techniques for the treatment of chronic pain; (ii) A randomised double-blind exploratory study of transcranial direct current stimulation of the motor cortex in the treatment of CNSLBP; (iii) Is blinding to the stimulation condition maintained in trials comparing 2mA tDCS with sham stimulation? A randomised cross-over study. Results: There is limited existing evidence that some forms of NIBS may have a beneficial effect on chronic pain, though caution is warranted. Exploratory data from study 2 is not suggestive that tDCS to the motor cortex is effective for treating CNSLBP. Commonly used sham controls in trials of tDCS do not ensure adequate blinding, and so introduce a potential source of bias to the existing evidence base. Conclusion: Further research is required to establish the value of NIBS as a treatment for chronic pain and CNSLBP. Future research in tDCS will need to develop and employ fully validated sham controls to ensure adequate blinding. NIBS cannot currently be recommended for the treatment of CNSLBP.
Supervisor: De Souza, L. H.; Wand, B. Sponsor: BackCare UK ; Rosetrees Trust
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Chronic pain ; Systematic review ; Transcranial direct current stimulation