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Exploring the pre-morbid contexts in which central sensitisation developed in people with non-specific chronic low back pain. A qualitative study

Clark, J and Goodwin, P and Yeowell, Gillian (2018) Exploring the pre-morbid contexts in which central sensitisation developed in people with non-specific chronic low back pain. A qualitative study. Brazilian Journal of Physical Therapy. ISSN 1413-3555

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Abstract

Background Central sensitisation pain is a predominant mechanism in a proportion of individuals with non-specific chronic low back pain and is associated with poor outcomes. It is proposed that the pre-morbid experiences and contexts may be related to the development of central sensitisation. Objectives The objective of this study was to explore the pre-morbid experiences and personal characteristics of participants with central sensitisation pain from a non-specific chronic low back pain population. Methods This was a qualitative, exploratory study, using a concurrent nested design within a mixed methods protocol. n = 9 participants were recruited purposively based on sensory profiles and trait anxiety-related personality types. Data were collected through semi structured interviews, managed using QSR NVivo 10 software and analysed using theoretical thematic analysis. Results Four themes emerged: developmental learning experiences, personal characteristics, sensitivity and trauma. Reported was lack of confidence, low esteem and a need to please others, physical hyper-sensitivities (smell, light, sound) and emotional sensitivity (anxiety) as well as physical hypo-sensitivity. Participants had also suffered emotional and/or physical trauma. Learning difficulties, sensory sensitivities and trauma are associated with autonomic stress responses, which in turn have been linked to physiological changes seen in central sensitisation pain. Conclusion Central sensitisation pain developed in the context of sensory processing differences related to learning difficulties, sensitivities and trauma, and personal characteristics of low confidence and control, in a group of participants with non-specific chronic low back pain. The role of pre-existing sensory processing differences, as a component of altered central nervous system function, in relation to central sensitisation pain warrants further investigation.

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