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Papers of the Week

Papers: 12 Aug 2023 - 18 Aug 2023

Clinical, Psychology, Social Aspects

Human Studies, Neurobiology

Musculoskeletal Pain, Psychological/Comorbidities

2023 Aug 12

Sci Rep




Towards data-driven biopsychosocial classification of non-specific chronic low back pain: a pilot study.


Tagliaferri SD, Owen PJ, Miller CT, Angelova M, Fitzgibbon BM, Wilkin T, Masse-Alarie H, Van Oosterwijck J, Trudel G, Connell D, Taylor A, Belavy DL


The classification of non-specific chronic low back pain (CLBP) according to multidimensional data could guide clinical management; yet recent systematic reviews show this has not been attempted. This was a prospective cross-sectional study of participants with CLBP (n = 21) and age-, sex- and height-matched pain-free controls (n = 21). Nervous system, lumbar spinal tissue and psychosocial factors were collected. Dimensionality reduction was followed by fuzzy c-means clustering to determine sub-groups. Machine learning models (Support Vector Machine, k-Nearest Neighbour, Naïve Bayes and Random Forest) were used to determine the accuracy of classification to sub-groups. The primary analysis showed that four factors (cognitive function, depressive symptoms, general self-efficacy and anxiety symptoms) and two clusters (normal versus impaired psychosocial profiles) optimally classified participants. The error rates in classification models ranged from 4.2 to 14.2% when only CLBP patients were considered and increased to 24.2 to 37.5% when pain-free controls were added. This data-driven pilot study classified participants with CLBP into sub-groups, primarily based on psychosocial factors. This contributes to the literature as it was the first study to evaluate data-driven machine learning CLBP classification based on nervous system, lumbar spinal tissue and psychosocial factors. Future studies with larger sample sizes should validate these findings.