Vets with low back pain wanted for study
Most of us have had at least one bout of lower back pain in our lives. But about half of all veterans have chronic low back pain.
Now a study is under way to determine the best way to treat that pain without medication.
The nationwide study, known as Sequential and Comparative Evaluation of Pain Treatment Effectiveness Response (SCEPTER), will enroll more than 2,500 U.S. veterans. Veterans Affairs in Baltimore is one of 20 participating sites around the country.
“The study is basically looking at non-pharmacological therapies like physical therapy, chiropractic manipulation, cognitive behavioral therapy and yoga,” said Dr. Beth Hogans, local site investigator and associate director for education at the VA’s Geriatric Research, Education and Clinical Centers.
“Each of those treatments have been shown in trials to be effective for low back pain. Some of them work a little better [than others]. They’ve never been compared head-to-head. That’s what this trial is about.”
The SCEPTER study is the first large-scale study of its kind, Hogans said. “It’s the type of trial that’s been done for medication, but it hasn’t been done on a large scale with nonpharmacological therapies.”
If you’re a U.S. veteran who has had low back pain for at least six months, and at least four times a week, you’re eligible for the study.
How the study works
Once enrolled, participants will be randomly put into one of three groups, or arms. One group will receive “care as usual.” Another group will take an online class on pain relief skills, a program that uses cognitive behavioral therapy. The third group will have 8 to 10 physical therapy sessions in person at Loch Raven VA Medical Center.
After three months, those still experiencing back pain will move on to the last phase of the study. Again, participants will be randomly placed into one of three groups.
The first group will work with a cognitive behavioral therapist via telehealth sessions. Another group will take virtual one-on-one yoga classes from their home. The third will have 8 to 10 in-person sessions with a chiropractor.
The physical therapist, clinical psychologist, yoga instructor and chiropractor are well known in their fields, Hogans noted.
“Here in Baltimore we’ve assembled a team of handpicked superstar treatment providers,” she said. “These are great providers; they’ve been recognized for their abilities.”
The study lasts six months, and while some participants can do most, if not all, of it from their homes, others may have to travel to their in-person appointments.
“It’s a pretty big commitment,” Hogans admitted. But participants can not only potentially get some pain relief from these therapies, they can help others who suffer from chronic low back pain.
“This information is so vital for the millions of people living with low back pain,” Hogans said. “It really does help us make those strides forward.”
For more information or to volunteer to enroll in the SCEPTER study, contact Chad Wessinger by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or call (443) 509-9436.