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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.

15 Mar 2010
A recent report of a study by The George Institutesuggests that GPs in Australia often treat low back pain - said to be theseventh most common reason for GP consultations - in ways that do not match thecare endorsed by international clinical guidelines.

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

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

It says that only 20.5% of patients received advice and17.7% received simple pain-relieving medication, both of which are recommendedas part of initial care for low back pain, and that they were more oftenprescribed NSAIDS (37.4%) and opioids (19.6%) instead of the "safer and equallyeffective" acetaminophen. 

The report has been published in Archives of Internal Medicine.


Published: 15 Mar 2010