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Low back pain: doing the right thing?

A recent report of a study by The George Institute suggests that GPs in Australia often treat low back pain in ways that do not match the care endorsed by international clinical guidelines.

04 Apr 2010
A recent report of a study by The George Institute suggests that GPs in Australia often treat low back pain - said to be the seventh most common reason for GP consultations - in ways that do not match the care endorsed by international clinical guidelines.

The study assessed the care provided for new episodes of the condition during 3,533 patient visits to GPs between 2001 and 2008. The visits were mapped to the major recommendations in treatment guidelines and data were compared for two three-year periods before and after the release of the Australian guidelines in 2004.

The report says that, although international evidence-based guidelines discourage the use of imaging, more than one-quarter of patients were referred for radiology, computed tomography or similar tests. 

It says that only 20.5% of patients received advice and 17.7% received simple pain-relieving medication, both of which are recommended as part of initial care for low back pain, and that they were more often prescribed NSAIDS (37.4%) and opioids (19.6%) instead of the "safer and equally effective" acetaminophen. 

The report has been published in Archives of Internal Medicine.


Published: 04 Apr 2010