Identifying neuropathic back and leg pain: a cross-sectional study

Beith, Iain D, Kemp, Andrew, Kenyon, Jonathan, Prout, Matthew and Chestnut, Thomas J (2011) Identifying neuropathic back and leg pain: a cross-sectional study. Pain, 152(7), pp. 1511-1516. ISSN (print) 0304-3959


Low back pain is a widespread debilitating problem with a lifetime prevalence of 80%, with the underlying pain mechanism unknown in approximately 90% of cases. We used the painDETECT neuropathic pain screening questionnaire to identify likely pain mechanisms in 343 patients with low back pain with or without leg pain in southeastern England referred for physiotherapy. We related the identified possible pain mechanisms nociceptive, unclear, and neuropathic to standardised measures of pain severity (Numeric Rating Scale), disability (Roland Morris Low Back Pain Disability Questionnaire), anxiety and depression (Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale), and quality of life (Short Form 36 Health Survey Questionnaire Version 2). In addition, we investigated any relationship between these possible pain mechanisms and leg pain, passive straight leg raise, and magnetic resonance imaging evidence confirming or eliminating nerve root compression. A total of 59% of participants (n=204) reported likely nociceptive pain, 25% (n=85) unclear, and 16% (n=54) possible neuropathic pain. The possible neuropathic pain group reported significantly higher pain, disability, anxiety, and depression, reduced quality of life and passive straight leg raise compared to the other pain groups (P<.05). A total of 96% of participants with possible neuropathic pain reported pain radiating to the leg (76% below the knee); however, leg pain was still more common in patients with nociceptive pain, suggesting that leg pain is sensitive to, but not specific to, possible neuropathic pain. No relationship was demonstrated between possible neuropathic pain and evidence for or absence of nerve root compression on magnetic resonance imaging scans. These findings suggest possible neuropathic pain is less common in low back pain patients referred through primary care and clarifies the usefulness of clinical tests for identifying possible neuropathic pain. Sixteen percent of participants reported neuropathic pain causing significantly higher pain levels, disability scores, anxiety and depression levels, lesser quality of life, and reduced passive straight leg raise.

Actions (Repository Editors)

Item Control Page Item Control Page