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HEAL Researchers are Investigating New Solutions to Address Projected Spike in Back Pain in Future Years

Back pain is a major contributor to the use of opioids in the United States, since doctors, unable to get at and address the underlying causes, often resort to pain relievers. A recent study published in The Lancet found that by 2050, a 36% increase in total number of cases of low back pain is expected globally, driven by population growth and aging.1 

In the U.S., where nearly 2 out of 5 adults are already experiencing back pain, the search for novel solutions to address this challenge has taken on new urgency — and researchers from the National Institutes of Health Helping to End Addiction Long-term® Initiative, or NIH HEAL Initiative®, are committed to finding answers.2

In response to the projected rise in back pain in the United States and around the world, HEAL funded researchers, as part of the Back Pain Consortium (BACPAC) Research Program, are creating a whole-system model of chronic low back pain to represent everything that contributes to chronic low back pain or help treat it. 

The ultimate goal for BACPAC is for the model to be turned into a tool that health care practitioners can use. The research and modeling efforts in BACPAC represent progress toward a future of medicine in which all pain can be treated in a way that is personalized to the patient. This recently released infographic and toolkit describe two innovative BACPAC approaches being utilized to alleviate pain without the use of medication or opioids, including the use of artificial muscles and virtual reality. Together, these efforts and many others provide hope to millions of people living with chronic pain, including back pain.

HEAL Connections is a center that is jointly run by Duke Clinical Research Institute and George Mason University and funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) through the Helping to End Addiction Long-term® Initiative, or NIH HEAL Initiative®. HEAL Connections is aimed at supporting widespread dissemination and implementation of HEAL-funded research. HEAL Connections is funded by the NIH HEAL Initiative under OTA numbers: 1OT20D034479 and 1OT2OD034481.


The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health.

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