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NCCIH Research Blog

New NIH BACPAC Funding Opportunities for Research on Low-Back Pain

December 18, 2018

Dr. Helene M. Langevin ("Helene Langevin")

Helene M. Langevin, M.D.


National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health

View biographical sketch

I’m writing today to encourage researchers with an interest in complementary and integrative therapies for low-back pain to apply for the new funding opportunities offered by the National Institutes of Health Back Pain Research Consortium (NIH BACPAC), part of the NIH HEAL (Helping to End Addiction Long-termSM) Initiative.

Chronic low-back pain is one of the most common forms of chronic pain, and it’s a very difficult condition to manage. No therapy works consistently for all patients. Unfortunately, some people with chronic low-back pain end up taking opioids for lack of a better alternative, despite the lack of research supporting their use for chronic pain. Enhancing the treatment of chronic low-back pain fits in perfectly with the NIH HEAL Initiative’s goal of finding new, safer treatment options for pain to improve patients’ quality of life and reduce the number of people exposed to opioid risks.

Rigorous studies are needed to better understand the underlying mechanisms of low-back pain and to develop more effective ways to treat it, including combination therapies and individualized approaches. That’s where NIH BACPAC comes in. NIH BACPAC will focus on translational and clinical research for discovery of low-back pain mechanisms and for identification and testing of new interventions targeted to the individual patient.

Because my own research has centered on musculoskeletal pain and the mechanisms by which nonpharmacologic therapies may exert their effects, I’m particularly excited that NIH BACPAC will include interdisciplinary centers focusing on mechanistic research. Understanding the mechanisms of a condition and its proposed treatments is crucial for the design of rigorous clinical trials and the development of effective therapies.

Mechanistic research is particularly important to us at the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) because many of the approaches we study are incompletely understood. We have clinical evidence that some of these approaches may help patients, and we have some insight into how they may exert their effects, but major gaps in our knowledge remain. We need to fill those gaps.

NCCIH is participating in all four NIH BACPAC funding opportunities. Our particular interests are 1) better understanding mind and body mechanisms of back pain and how complementary health approaches may modulate these mechanisms; and 2) how complementary approaches might be incorporated into multimodal treatment plans for low-back pain, including ways to individualize therapy—that is, to figure out which patients will respond best to which approaches. If your interests align with ours—or if you have other research interests that match the overall goals of NIH BACPAC—we encourage you to respond to one of the NIH BACPAC funding opportunity announcements.

  • A pre-application webinar for the NIH BACPAC research program will be held on Wednesday, December 19, 2018 at 11 a.m. ET, with additional webinars on January 15th and 23rd.
  • General questions about NIH BACPAC should be sent to
  • Questions specific to applications that address NCCIH’s interests should be sent to Dr. Wen Chen or Dr. Wendy Weber at
  • The deadline for submitting applications is February 26, 2019 for RFA-AR-19-029 and March 20, 2019 for the other three FOAs.


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