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Wednesday 26th June 2019

New approach to managing back pain

29th September 2011

Changes to the way back pain patients are managed in primary care can make a significant difference to their levels of pain and distress.


A study funded by Arthritis Research UK and published in The Lancet looked at 850 sufferers and found that targeted physiotherapy which is more reflective of patients’ individual needs saw sufferers require less time off work and be more satisfied with their care.

And patients at highest risk of their back pain becoming long-term and who were are afraid exercise would make their condition worse, benefited from a more intensive approach that addressed their specific worries.

Chief investigator and director of the Arthritis Research UK Primary Care Centre at Keele University Professor Elaine Hay said: “Importantly, we also found that this new targeted approach substantially reduced healthcare costs and therefore has important implications for commissioners and providers of back pain services.”

NHS Direct in Scotland has already decided to use the targeted approach and it is being used across NHS services in the UK.

The approach trialled in The Lancet study used a new questionnaire (the Keele STarT Back screening tool) to assess whether patients were at low, medium or high risk of having persistent, disabling symptoms from their back pain.

“The new STarT Back screening tool we have developed is already proving popular in the UK, with 50 centres adopting it, and also internationally,” added Professor Hay.

“The data shows that it is having a substantial beneficial impact where it is being implemented, making a big difference to patients.”


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