Little is known about the epidemiology of neuropathic pain in primary care patients consulting with low back-related leg pain. We aimed to describe prevalence, characteristics, and clinical course of low back-related leg pain patients with and without neuropathic pain, consulting with their family doctor in the United Kingdom.
Materials and Methods:
This was a prospective cohort study. Data were collected using a standardized baseline clinical examination and self-report questionnaires at baseline, 4, 12, and 36 months. We identified cases of neuropathic pain using 3 definitions: 2 based on clinical diagnosis (sciatica, with and without evidence of nerve root compression on magnetic resonance imaging), one on the self-report version of Leeds Assessment for Neurological Symptoms and Signs. Differences between patients with and without neuropathic pain were analyzed comparing each definition. Clinical course (mean pain intensity measured as the highest of leg or back pain intensity: mean of 3 Numerical Rating Scales, each 0 to 10) was investigated using linear mixed models over 36 months.
Prevalence of neuropathic pain varied from 48% to 74% according to definition used. At baseline, patients with neuropathic pain had more severe leg pain intensity, lower pain self-efficacy, more patients had sensory loss than those without. Distinct profiles were apparent depending on neuropathic pain definition. Mean pain intensity reduced after 4 months (6.1 to 3.9 [sciatica]), most rapidly in cases defined by clinical diagnosis.
This research provides new information on the clinical course of neuropathic pain and a better understanding of neuropathic pain in low back-related leg pain patients consulting in primary care.