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Durham, North Carolina 27705


Chronic low back pain (cLBP) is one of the most common and disabling conditions among US military Veterans. Although physical activity can improve cLBP outcomes, the majority of Veterans with cLBP are inactive. Therefore the VA is in need of effective programs that can help older Veterans with cLBP to increase their physical activity and improve associated outcomes. This is particularly relevant for older Veterans with cLBP who are at greater risk for functional limitations. The proposed project will be a pilot study of a telephone-based physical activity program or physical activity combined with cognitive behavioral pain management for older adult Veterans with cLBP. Older Veterans are of particular interest because prior studies of physical activity for cLBP have not addressed this vulnerable patient group. This study will also inform the VA about whether certain patients with cLBP, who have greater pain sensitivity, may benefit from other treatment to supplement a physical activity program.

Study summary:

Chronic low back pain (cLBP) is one of the most common and disabling conditions among US military Veterans, and the prevalence is rising even more rapidly than other chronic conditions such as diabetes and hypertension. Studies have shown that physical activity (PA) can improve outcomes in patients with cLBP, but a major gap in this research is the lack of studies focusing on older adults; patient samples have been primarily middle-aged and have included few patients' age 65 years. Therefore, the investigators' lack an evidence base for the feasibility and effectiveness of PA interventions in this vulnerable group of patients with cLBP. This is particularly important given the accumulating evidence showing that older adults with cLBP have significant lower extremity functional limitations, resulting in difficulty performing necessary daily tasks. Another area of limited investigation among older adults with cLBP is whether there is added benefit of incorporating cognitive behavioral therapy for pain management (CBT-P) skills with PA interventions. CBT-P can help to restructure pain perception and improve pacing of PA. Some patients with cLBP do not respond favorably to isolated PA interventions, and it is possible that heightened pain sensitization may underlie this lack of response in some patients. Since CBT-P has been shown to alter pain processing, older adults with cLBP who have greater pain sensitization may respond better to a program that combines PA and CBT-P (vs. PA alone); however, this has not been studied. This information has practical implications for a larger trial to determining whether a subset of patients with greater central pain sensitivity may need additional intervention to supplement a PA program. The investigators will conduct a pilot study of a 12-week home-based PA and PA + CBT-P programs, both with weekly telephone support, compared with a waiting list control group. Participants will be 60 older Veterans (age 65) with cLBP. Enrollment of participants will occur via referrals from geriatric and primary care clinics at the Durham VAMC. The PA program will be comprehensive, including stretching, strengthening, and aerobic activities, and the specific types and intensities of the activities will be geared toward older adults. The CBT-P program will include five different skills, woven into the telephone-based sessions, with specific application to PA and cLBP. Both interventions will be jointly delivered by a physical therapist and exercise counselor, who has complementary areas of expertise (e.g., training in clinical exercise prescription and motivational interviewing skills to encourage PA adherence, respectively). Telephone calls will involve patient-specific goal-setting and address barriers to PA and CBT-P skills. Participants will receive a booklet with instructions and photographs for stretching and strengthening exercises, as well as an exercise video appropriate for older adults with cLBP. Participants in the combined intervention will also receive written and audio instructions regarding CBT-P skills. Feasibility measures will include the proportion of completed intervention calls, adherence to home-based PA recommendations and CBT-P skills use, and participant feedback on the programs. Outcomes will be assessed at baseline and 12-week follow-up. Primary measures of efficacy will be assessments of general physical function, both objective and self-reported (PROMIS Health Assessment Questionnaire). Secondary outcomes will include measures cLBP-specific pain and disability. Central pain sensitivity will be assessed via Pain Pressure Threshold (PPT) testing and the Central Sensitization Inventory (CSI). Statistical analyses will include comparison of baseline and follow-up outcomes across study groups, as well as examination of potential trends for differential intervention response according to baseline PPT and CSI scores.


Inclusion Criteria: 1. Self-report having had lower back pain on most days for greater than three months. 2. Can complete a 10 second semi-tandem stand and walk 8' in 6.0 seconds. 3. Report they are not satisfied with their current state of functional ability, based on reporting "dissatisfied" with at least one aspect of physical function on the Satisfaction with Physical Function Scale. 4. Can safely participate in the intervention based upon the physical therapist baseline examination and clinical expertise. Exclusion Criteria: 1. unilateral or bilateral sciatica that physical therapist determines could make the study intervention unsafe or inappropriate; isolated coccyx pain (based on self-report at screener); 2. dementia or other significant cognitive impairment; 3. movement or motor neuron disorders (e.g., Parkinson's Disease, Multiple Sclerosis, Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis); 4. rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, or other systemic rheumatic disease; 5. hospitalization for a stroke, myocardial infarction, heart failure, or coronary artery revascularization in the past 3 months; 6. significant hearing impairment (must be able to talk on the telephone); 7. psychosis or current, uncontrolled substance abuse disorder; 8. any other health conditions determined by the study team to be contraindications to performing mild to moderate home exercises.



Primary Contact:

Principal Investigator
Kelli Dominick Allen, PhD
Durham VA Medical Center, Durham, NC

Backup Contact:


Location Contact:

Durham, North Carolina 27705
United States

There is no listed contact information for this specific location.

Site Status: N/A

Data Source: ClinicalTrials.gov

Date Processed: November 18, 2019

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