Neuropathic Pain in Low Back-Related Leg Pain Patients: What Is the Evidence of Prevalence, Characteristics, and Prognosis in Primary Care? A Systematic Review of the Literature

  • Sarah A. Harrisson
    Address reprint requests to Sarah A. Harrisson, Arthritis Research UK Primary Care Centre, Stoke on Trent, Staffordshire ST5 5BG, United Kingdom.
    Arthritis Research UK Primary Care Centre, Research Institute for Primary Care and Health Sciences, Keele University, Staffordshire, United Kingdom
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  • Siobhán Stynes
    Arthritis Research UK Primary Care Centre, Research Institute for Primary Care and Health Sciences, Keele University, Staffordshire, United Kingdom
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  • Kate M. Dunn
    Arthritis Research UK Primary Care Centre, Research Institute for Primary Care and Health Sciences, Keele University, Staffordshire, United Kingdom
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  • Nadine E. Foster
    Arthritis Research UK Primary Care Centre, Research Institute for Primary Care and Health Sciences, Keele University, Staffordshire, United Kingdom
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  • Kika Konstantinou
    Arthritis Research UK Primary Care Centre, Research Institute for Primary Care and Health Sciences, Keele University, Staffordshire, United Kingdom
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      • Twelve studies were included in the review of low back-related leg pain patients (LBLP).
      • Prevalence estimates of neuropathic pain in LBLP patients varied from 19% to 80%.
      • LBLP patients with neuropathic pain had worse disability compared to those without.
      • On the basis of 1 study, prognosis was worse for LBLP patients with neuropathic pain.
      • No evidence was found on characteristics associated with prognosis (prognostic factors).


      This systematic review synthesizes literature describing prevalence, characteristics, and prognosis of low back-related leg pain (LBLP) patients with neuropathic pain in primary care and/or similar settings. Inclusion and exclusion criteria were developed and used by independent reviewers to screen citations for eligibility. The initial search yielded 24,948 citations; after screening 12 studies were included. Neuropathic pain was identified using case ascertainment tools (n = 5), clinical history with examination (n = 4), and using LBLP samples assumed neuropathic (n = 3). Neuropathic pain prevalence varied from 19% to 80%. There was consistent evidence for higher back-related disability (n = 3), poorer health-related quality of life (n = 2), and some evidence for more severe depression (n = 2), anxiety (n = 3), and pain intensity (n = 4) in patients with neuropathic pain. Results were less consistent when cases were identified through clinical history with examination than those identified using case ascertainment tools. Prognosis (n = 1) of LBLP patients with neuropathic pain was worse compared with those without, in all outcomes (leg pain intensity, leg and back-related disability, self-reported general health) except back pain intensity. No studies described prognostic factors. This systematic review highlights the evidence gap in neuropathic pain in LBLP in primary care, especially with respect to prognosis.


      Patients with LBLP may have neuropathic pain. This systematic review emphasizes the paucity of evidence describing the characteristics and prognosis of neuropathic pain in this patient population. Future research investigating prognosis of these patients with neuropathic pain is likely to contribute to better understanding and management.

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