10 Essential scientific research papers in pain management

Lars Avemarie

I asked on social media for what my colleagues and peers (some of them researchers), deemed to be essential scientific research papers in pain management (for health professionals).

A good suggestions was to read a book on the topic of pain first, more specifically to read “Aches and Pains” by Gifford. I would add to that suggestion, that you after that book read “Pain a textbook for health professionals” (2th edition) by Hubert van Griensven, Strong and Unruh. It’s a very good entry level textbook on pain management.

Thanks a lot to all my peers and colleagues who participated.

There was posted a total of 41 research suggestions (within two days), that was deemed essential scientific research in pain management. The full list of research papers suggestions are at the bottom of this page.

I have below tried to categorize the research suggestions from simple topics to much more complex topics, while also looking at the practical relevance and clinical applicability of the scientific papers. This while also looking for what papers gives the best bang for your buck, or reading time.

I have also limited myself to 10 research papers of the total list of 41 suggestions. As Dr. Jason Silvernail stated, 10 papers might just be the “Minimum Effective Dose.”  You should start by reading no 1, then proceed to no. 2, and the continue down the list.

One paper that was not suggested with great practical relevance is “Outcome measures measure outcomes, not effects of intervention” by Herbert et al. This is in my opinion one of most important papers, for a young health professional to read. It’s one of the first papers that I recommend to read when health professionals want to learn more about what science based physiotherapy is.

The 10 essential scientific papers:

1. Moseley, G. L. (2007). Reconceptualising pain according to modern pain science.Physical Therapy Reviews 12(3): 169-178.

2. Darlow, Ben. Beliefs about back pain: The confluence of client, clinician and community. International Journal of Osteopathic Medicine , Volume 20 , 53 – 61

3. Lederman E. The fall of the postural-structural-biomechanical model in manual and physical therapies: exemplified by lower back pain. J Bodyw Mov Ther. 2011 Apr;15(2):131-8. doi: 10.1016/j.jbmt.2011.01.011.

4. Simpkin AL, Schwartzstein RM. Tolerating Uncertainty – The Next Medical Revolution?. N Engl J Med. 2016 Nov 3;375(18):1713-1715.

5. O’Sullivan P, Caneiro JP, O’Keeffe M, O’Sullivan K. Unraveling the Complexity of Low Back Pain. J Orthop Sports Phys Ther. 2016 Nov;46(11):932-937.

6. Benedetti F. Placebo and the new physiology of the doctor-patient relationship.Physiol Rev. 2013 Jul;93(3):1207-46. doi: 10.1152/physrev.00043.2012.

7. Croskerry P.  From mindless to mindful practice–cognitive bias and clinical decision making. N Engl J Med. 2013 Jun 27;368(26):2445-8. doi: 10.1056/NEJMp1303712.

8. Mark L. Latash. The Bliss of Motor Abundance. Exp Brain Res. Exp Brain Res. 2012 Mar; 217(1): 1–5. Published online 2012 Jan 14. doi: 10.1007/s00221-012-3000-4.

9. Nijs J, Roussel N, Paul van Wilgen C, Köke A, Smeets R. Thinking beyond muscles and joints: therapists’ and patients’ attitudes and beliefs regarding chronic musculoskeletal pain are key to applying effective treatment. Man Ther. 2013 Apr;18(2):96-102. Epub 2012 Dec 28.

10. Melzack, R. and Katz, J. (2013), Pain. WIREs Cogn Sci, 4: 1–15. doi:10.1002/wcs.1201.

So this is my suggestion of essential scientific research papers in pain management, if you have any questions feel free to contact me on social media.

Thanks a lot to my my colleagues and peers, for their contributions to the list.

Full list of research suggestions:

Maximizing exposure therapy: an inhibitory learning approach. Craske MG1, Treanor M2, Conway CC2, Zbozinek T2, Vervliet B3. Behav Res Ther. 2014 Jul;58:10-23. doi: 10.1016/j.brat.2014.04.006. Epub 2014 May 9.

Corticostriatal functional connectivity predicts transition to chronic back pain.Baliki MN1, Petre B, Torbey S, Herrmann KM, Huang L, Schnitzer TJ, Fields HL, Apkarian AV. Nat Neurosci. 2012 Jul 1;15(8):1117-9. doi: 10.1038/nn.3153.

Melzack, R. and Katz, J. (2013), Pain. WIREs Cogn Sci, 4: 1–15. doi:10.1002/wcs.1201

Why do ineffective treatments seem helpful? A brief review. Hartman SE1. Chiropr Osteopat. 2009 Oct 12;17:10. doi: 10.1186/1746-1340-17-10.

Gifford L S 2000 The patient in front of us: from genes to environment. In: Gifford L S (ed) Topical Issues in Pain 2.  Biopsychosocial assessment and management. Relationships and pain  CNS Press, Falmouth

Melzack, R., 2001, Pain and the Neuromatrix in the Brain. Journal of Dental Education December 1, vol. 65 no. 12 1378-1382

Beliefs about back pain: The confluence of client, clinician and community. Darlow, Ben. International Journal of Osteopathic Medicine , Volume 20 , 53 – 61

Tolerating Uncertainty – The Next Medical Revolution?. Simpkin AL, Schwartzstein RM. N Engl J Med. 2016 Nov 3;375(18):1713-1715.

J Orthop Sports Phys Ther. 2016 Nov;46(11):932-937.Unraveling the Complexity of Low Back Pain.O’Sullivan P, Caneiro JP, O’Keeffe M, O’Sullivan K.

The Bliss of Motor Abundance. Mark L. Latash. Exp Brain Res. Exp Brain Res. 2012 Mar; 217(1): 1–5. Published online 2012 Jan 14. doi: 10.1007/s00221-012-3000-4

Placebo and the new physiology of the doctor-patient relationship. Physiol Rev. 2013 Jul;93(3):1207-46. doi: 10.1152/physrev.00043.2012. Benedetti F.

N Engl J Med. 2013 Jun 27;368(26):2445-8. doi: 10.1056/NEJMp1303712. From mindless to mindful practice–cognitive bias and clinical decision making. Croskerry P1.

Three-year follow-up of a randomized controlled trial comparing preoperative neuroscience education for patients undergoing surgery for lumbar radiculopathy. Journal of Spine Surgery. 2016;2(4):289-298. doi:10.21037/jss.2016.12.04. Louw A, Diener I, Landers MR, Zimney K, Puentedura EJ.

Schütze R, Slater H, O’Sullivan P, Thornton J, Finlay-Jones A, Rees CS. Mindfulness-Based Functional Therapy: a preliminary open trial of an integrated model of care for people with persistent low back pain. Frontiers in Psychology. 2014;5:839. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2014.00839.

Man Ther. 2003 Aug;8(3):130-40.A pain neuromatrix approach to patients with chronic pain.Moseley GL1.

Clin J Pain. 2006 Oct;22(8):692-9.Is pain ever “normal”?. Cronje RJ1, Williamson OD.

Man Ther. 2016 Aug;24:65-74. doi: 10.1016/j.math.2016.04.006. Epub 2016 Apr 20.Enhance placebo, avoid nocebo: How contextual factors affect physiotherapy outcomes.Testa M1, Rossettini G2.

Clin J Pain. 2015 Feb;31(2):97-107. doi: 10.1097/AJP.0000000000000098.Interaction between pain, movement, and physical activity: short-term benefits, long-term consequences, and targets for treatment.Hodges PW1, Smeets RJ.

J Multidiscip Healthc. 2013 May 16;6:197-204. doi: 10.2147/JMDH.S44117. Print 2013.Belief reinforcement: one reason why costs for low back pain have not decreased.Zusman M1.

A hybrid emotion-focused exposure treatment for chronic pain: A feasibility studyLinton, Steven J. et al.Scandinavian Journal of Pain , Volume 5 , Issue 3 , 151 – 158

Darlow B, Dowell A, Baxter GD, Mathieson F, Perry M, Dean S. The Enduring Impact of What Clinicians Say to People With Low Back Pain. Annals of Family Medicine. 2013;11(6):527-534. doi:10.1370/afm.1518.

Lancet. 2012 Jul 21;380(9838):219-29. doi: 10.1016/S0140-6736(12)61031-9.Effect of physical inactivity on major non-communicable diseases worldwide: an analysis of burden of disease and life expectancy.Lee IM1, Shiroma EJ, Lobelo F, Puska P, Blair SN, Katzmarzyk PT; Lancet Physical Activity Series Working Group.

PLoS Comput Biol. 2017 Jan 12;13(1):e1005142. doi: 10.1371/journal.pcbi.1005142. eCollection 2017.Pain: A Statistical Account.Tabor A1, Thacker MA2,3, Moseley GL3,4, Körding KP5.

Petersen GL, Finnerup NB, Colloca L, et al. The magnitude of nocebo effects in pain: A meta-analysis. Pain. 2014;155(8):1426-1434. doi:10.1016/j.pain.2014.04.016.

Br J Sports Med. 2016 Oct 20. pii: bjsports-2016-096821. doi: 10.1136/bjsports-2016-096821. [Epub ahead of print]Dispelling the myth that chronic pain is unresponsive to treatment.Saragiotto BT1, Maher CG1, Traeger AC2, Li Q1, McAuley JH2.

Lancet. 2014 Nov 1;384(9954):1586-96. doi: 10.1016/S0140-6736(14)60805-9. Epub 2014 Jul 23.Efficacy of paracetamol for acute low-back pain: a double-blind, randomised controlled trial.Williams CM1, Maher CG2, Latimer J2, McLachlan AJ3, Hancock MJ4, Day RO5, Lin CW2.

Lancet. 2014 Jul 12;384(9938):133-41. doi: 10.1016/S0140-6736(14)60457-8. Epub 2014 Apr 4.Comprehensive physiotherapy exercise programme or advice for chronic whiplash (PROMISE): a pragmatic randomised controlled trial.Michaleff ZA1, Maher CG2, Lin CW2, Rebbeck T3, Jull G4, Latimer J2, Connelly L5, Sterling M6.

BMC Musculoskelet Disord. 2014 Mar 7;15:68. doi: 10.1186/1471-2474-15-68.The clinical course of low back pain: a meta-analysis comparing outcomes in randomised clinical trials (RCTs) and observational studies.Artus M1, van der Windt D, Jordan KP, Croft PR.

Moseley, G. L. (2007). “Reconceptualising pain according to modern pain science.” Physical Therapy Reviews 12(3): 169-178.

Nijs, J., B. Van Houdenhove and R. A. Oostendorp (2010). “Recognition of central sensitization in patients with musculoskeletal pain: Application of pain neurophysiology in manual therapy practice.” Man Ther 15(2): 135-141.

Gifford, L. (1998). “Pain, the Tissues and the Nervous System: A conceptual model.” Physiotherapy 84(1): 27-36.

Prog Neurobiol. 2009 Feb;87(2):81-97. doi: 10.1016/j.pneurobio.2008.09.018. Epub 2008 Oct 5.Towards a theory of chronic pain.Apkarian AV1, Baliki MN, Geha PY.

Pain. 2015 Jan;156(1):35-8. doi: 10.1016/j.pain.0000000000000014.Beyond nociception: the imprecision hypothesis of chronic pain.Moseley GL1, Vlaeyen JW.

Phys Ther. 2014 May;94(5):730-8. doi: 10.2522/ptj.20130258. Epub 2014 Jan 30.A modern neuroscience approach to chronic spinal pain: combining pain neuroscience education with cognition-targeted motor control training.Nijs J1, Meeus M, Cagnie B, Roussel NA, Dolphens M, Van Oosterwijck J, Danneels L.

Phys Ther. 2011 May;91(5):765-76. doi: 10.2522/ptj.20100278. Epub 2011 Mar 30.Psychologically informed interventions for low back pain: an update for physical therapists.Nicholas MK1, George SZ.

Neurodynamics. Shacklock, Michael. Physiotherapy , Volume 81 , Issue 1 , 9 – 16.

Pain Med. 2016 Jul 11. pii: pnw164. [Epub ahead of print]Sham Surgery in Orthopedics: A Systematic Review of the Literature.Louw A1, Diener I2, Fernández-de-Las-Peñas C3, Puentedura EJ4.

Arch Phys Med Rehabil. 2011 Dec;92(12):2041-56. doi: 10.1016/j.apmr.2011.07.198.The effect of neuroscience education on pain, disability, anxiety, and stress in chronic musculoskeletal pain.Louw A1, Diener I, Butler DS, Puentedura EJ.

Lederman E. The fall of the postural-structural-biomechanical model in manual and physical therapies: exemplified by lower back pain. J Bodyw Mov Ther. 2011 Apr;15(2):131-8. doi: 10.1016/j.jbmt.2011.01.011.

The Effects of Manual Therapy on Connective TissueA Joseph ThrelkeldPHYS THER. 1992; 72:893-902

Nijs J, Roussel N, Paul van Wilgen C, Köke A, Smeets R. Thinking beyond muscles and joints: therapists’ and patients’ attitudes and beliefs regarding chronic musculoskeletal pain are key to applying effective treatment. Man Ther. 2013 Apr;18(2):96-102. Epub 2012 Dec 28.

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