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Increased Salience Network Connectivity Following Manual Therapy is Associated with Reduced Pain in Chronic Low Back Pain Patients

Published:December 11, 2020DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jpain.2020.11.007

      Abstract

      Chronic low back pain (cLBP) has been associated with changes in brain plasticity. Nonpharmacological therapies such as Manual Therapy (MT) have shown promise for relieving cLBP. However, translational neuroimaging research is needed to understand potential central mechanisms supporting MT. We investigated the effect of MT on resting-state salience network (SLN) connectivity, and whether this was associated with changes in clinical pain. Fifteen cLBP patients, and 16 matched healthy controls (HC) were scanned with resting functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI), before and immediately after a MT intervention (cross-over design with two separate visits, pseudorandomized, grades V ‘Manipulation’ and III ‘Mobilization’ of the Maitland Joint Mobilization Grading Scale). Patients rated clinical pain (0–100) pre- and post-therapy. SLN connectivity was assessed using dual regression probabilistic independent component analysis. Both manipulation (Pre: 39.43 ± 16.5, Post: 28.43 ± 16.5) and mobilization (Pre: 38.83 ± 17.7, Post: 31.76 ± 19.4) reduced clinical back pain (P < .05). Manipulation (but not mobilization) significantly increased SLN connectivity to thalamus and primary motor cortex. Additionally, a voxelwise regression indicated that greater MT-induced increase in SLN connectivity to the lateral prefrontal cortex was associated with greater clinical back pain reduction immediately after intervention, for both manipulation (r = -0.8) and mobilization (r = -0.54). Our results suggest that MT is successful in reducing clinical low back pain by both spinal manipulation and spinal mobilization. Furthermore, this reduction post-manipulation occurs via modulation of SLN connectivity to sensorimotor, affective, and cognitive processing regions.

      Perspective

      MT both reduces clinical low back pain and modulates brain activity important for the processing of pain. This modulation was shown by increased functional brain connectivity between the salience network and brain regions involved in cognitive, affective, and sensorimotor processing of pain.

      Key Words

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