Chronic pain can disrupt the cortical representation of a painful body part. This disruption could be an one part of maintaining the individual’s pain. Tactile acuity training has been used to normalise cortical representation and reduce pain in certain pain conditions. However, there is a lack of evidence for the effectiveness of this intervention for chronic low back pain (CLBP). The primary objective of this study was to inform the development of a fully powered randomised controlled trial (RCT) by providing preliminary data on the effect of tactile acuity training on pain and function in individuals with CLBP. The secondary objective was to acquire qualitative feedback about the intervention. The placebo group improved by the greatest magnitude for both outcome measures, but there was no statistically significant difference (Mean difference (95%CI), p-value) between groups for change in pain (25.6 (-0.7 to 51.9), p = 0.056) or function (2.2 (-1.6 to 6.0), p = 0.237). Comparing the number of individuals achieving a minimally clinically significant improvement, the placebo group had better outcomes for pain with all participants achieving ≥30% improvement compared to only a third of the intervention group (6/6 vs. 3/9, p = 0.036). Qualitatively, participants reported that needing an informal carer was a considerable barrier to the home training component of the study.
This pilot RCT did not find tactile acuity training to be any more effective than sham tactile acuity training for function and less effective for pain in individuals with CLBP. That the intervention could not be self-applied was a considerable hindrance to its use.