An American researcher has revealed a fresh approach to studying and treating lower back pain.
N. Peter Reeves, a researcher in Osteopathic Surgical Specialties in Michigan State University's College of Osteopathic Medicine, is using systems science to study the spine.
He said: "The attractiveness of the systems approach is that it allows the research community to share results and integrate data to provide a coherent picture of the spine system, which in turn can be used to better diagnose and treat back pain."
According to Reeves, most clinical approaches being used today only concentrate on a reductionist method, wherein a medical problem is broken down into smaller parts to separate elements of the condition.
And this is problematic, he believes.
"With this approach, it will be possible to address some long-standing research questions...The first step is to present the concepts inherent to systems science so that a common understanding can be formed in the spinal research community," Reeves said.
eeves is not only setting up a Center for Spine System-Science at MSU but also coordinating with researchers in MSU's College of Engineering on developing equipment to test his approach.
He pointed out: "Back pain research is at a crossroads...There are a lot of questions that need to be addressed, and we need the right framework to answer them."
Presently, Reeves and his team are developing systems science methods to assimilate data collected from the testing of cadaver spines and muscular control of live subjects.
Thereafter, they plan to define the spine as a complete system, which will enable researchers to predict the response of the system to any sort of disturbance or appraise the system to various forms of impairment which may include degenerative disc disease or muscle wasting common with low back pain.
Reeves added: "The spine is extremely complex; you cannot fully appreciate medical conditions without looking at the big picture.....If you were building a new airplane, it would be impossible - and dangerous - to design the parts of the plane in isolation and not considering how these individuals parts would interact with one another. The spine is no different."
Reeves recently presented his study at an international back pain symposium held in Brisbane, Australia.