New volunteers sought for low back pain research

Health researchers are looking for new volunteers from across the north-east to take part in research to help older people with chronic low back pain manage their condition.

Dr Kay CooperThe team, led by Dr Kay Cooper from Robert Gordon University’s (RGU) Institute for Health & Wellbeing Research (IHWR), is seeking members of the public, who are aged 65 or over, to trial a bespoke peer-support intervention.

Peer-support, where assistance and encouragement is provided by an equal, has been used successfully to help people self-manage a range of other chronic health conditions.

The research team includes Professor Susan Klein from RGU, Professor Pat Schofield from the University of Greenwich and Professor Blair Smith from the University of Dundee.

They are currently looking for people who have chronic low back pain and who would like to receive the support of a trained peer support volunteer over a three-month period to help test the new intervention.

To be eligible for the study people need to be 65 or over, living in Aberdeen City or Aberdeenshire and have chronic low back pain for which they are not currently receiving any formal treatment or investigations.

Dr Cooper said: “Low back pain affects around a third of over 65’s with many reporting chronic symptoms lasting for 12 weeks or longer.

“Treatment such as physiotherapy is widely available and can be very effective, but due to the nature of low back pain many people need to develop a long-term self-management strategy.

“This can include things like exercises, being physically active, relaxation techniques and having a plan to cope with setbacks.

“Through our research we hope the intervention might prove to be a useful strategy for some over 65’s who want a bit of support to be able to successfully self-manage their chronic low back pain.”

The research, funded by The Dunhill Medical Trust, started in October 2013 with patients, health professionals, members of the public and other experts on self-management being interviewed about what it’s like to have chronic low back pain and what people can do to help themselves.

This information, along with evidence from published research, has been used to design the intervention and a training programme for peer volunteers.

The intervention is ideal for people who have recently been discharged from physiotherapy, as it is designed to be a stepping-stone between formal treatment and successful self-management.

Taking part in the research would involve being matched up with a peer support volunteer and receiving their support via six meetings or phone conversations over a three-month period.

The researcher would collect a range of measures during this period to find out whether the intervention is appropriate and feasible to deliver and receive, as well as how effective people think it is in helping them to self-manage their back pain.

If you are aged 65 or over, have chronic low back pain and would be interested in testing the intervention, please contact Dr Kay Cooper on (01224) 262677 or e-mail:

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Ross AndersonCommunications Officer | Health and Sport