New trial for revolutionary chronic back pain treatment

A new trial which could revolutionise the way chronic back pain is treated on the NHS has been launched by Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust.

The ground-breaking Modulate-LBP study will investigate whether a pioneering treatment known as spinal cord stimulation can treat chronic back pain.

Around 10 million people in the UK suffer from back pain. The condition is the leading cause of disability in the UK and it costs the economy around £12 billion a year.

Spinal cord stimulation is an alternative to major back surgery and works by delivering small electrical currents to the spinal cord, which disrupt pain signals to the brain. The treatment is delivered by a lead connected to a matchbox-sized battery-powered generator, with both implanted under the skin near the lower back during a minor surgical procedure.

The Modulate-LBP study will involve nearly 100 people who have not had previous back surgery. Participants will all have the same procedure to implant the device, but only half will be activated after the surgery. They will be monitored for six months, and results will be compared between both groups. This is a ‘double-blind’ study, so the participants will not know which group they are in, and neither will the staff collecting the results.

The study, which is funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR), marks the first time in the world that a non-commercial body has funded a spinal cord stimulation trial which will test the treatment against a ‘sham’ procedure. Previously only commercial companies have carried out this type of research.

Dr Adnan Al-Kaisy, consultant in pain medicine and neuromodulation at Guy’s and St Thomas’ and chief investigator for the study, said: “This unique study has the potential to completely revolutionise how we treat chronic back pain on the NHS. Unlike major back surgery, spinal cord stimulation is reversible and patients can be treated in a day, so it’s very cost effective.

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