Introduction Chronic low back pain (LBP) is a common and costly health problem yet current treatments demonstrate at best, small effects. The concurrent application of treatments with synergistic clinical and mechanistic effects may improve outcomes in chronic LBP. This pilot trial aims to (1) determine the feasibility, safety and perceived patient response to a combined transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) and sensorimotor retraining intervention in chronic LBP and (2) provide data to support a sample size calculation for a fully powered trial should trends of effectiveness be present.

Methods and analysis A pilot randomised, assessor and participant-blind, sham-controlled trial will be conducted. Eighty participants with chronic LBP will be randomly allocated to receive either (1) active tDCS + sensorimotor retraining or (2) sham tDCS + sensorimotor retraining. tDCS (active or sham) will be applied to the primary motor cortex for 20 min immediately prior to 60 min of supervised sensorimotor retraining twice per week for 10 weeks. Participants in both groups will complete home exercises three times per week. Feasibility, safety, pain, disability and pain system function will be assessed immediately before and after the 10-week intervention. Analysis of feasibility and safety will be performed using descriptive statistics. Statistical analyses will be conducted based on intention-to-treat and per protocol and will be used to determine trends for effectiveness.

Ethics and dissemination Ethical approval has been gained from the institutional human research ethics committee (H10184). Written informed consent will be provided by all participants. Results from this pilot study will be submitted for publication in peer-reviewed journals.

Trial registration number ACTRN12616000624482


chronic low back pain, treatment, transcranial direct current stimulation, sensorimotor retraining, trial

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