General practitioners do not follow guidelines for low back pain care
Three articles on PainSci cite Williams 2010: 1. Reviews of Pain Professions 2. The Complete Guide to Low Back Pain 3. The Medical Blind Spot for Aches, Pains & Injuries
PainSci commentary on Williams 2010: ?This page is one of thousands in the PainScience.com bibliography. It is not a general article: it is focused on a single scientific paper, and it may provide only just enough context for the summary to make sense. Links to other papers and more general information are provided wherever possible.
There are recommendations (based on evidence-based guidelines) which are given to general practitioners to help them work with patients who come to them complaining of low back pain. More than 3500 patients and their GPs were studied to see what recommendations the GPs actually gave their patients.
The guidelines discourage imaging, yet more than 25% of the GPs recommended it. The guidelines also suggest that initial care should focus on advice and simple pain killers, yet few patients received this (21% and 18%, respectively). The study concluded that “the usual care provided by GPs for LBP does not match the care endorsed in international evidence-based guidelines and may not provide the best outcomes for patients. This situation has not improved over time. The unendorsed care may contribute to the high costs of managing LBP, and some aspects of the care provided carry a higher risk of adverse effects.”
~ Paul Ingraham
original abstract †Abstracts here may not perfectly match originals, for a variety of technical and practical reasons. Some abstacts are truncated for my purposes here, if they are particularly long-winded and unhelpful. I occasionally add clarifying notes. And I make some minor corrections.
BACKGROUND: Acute low back pain (LBP) is primarily managed in general practice. We aimed to describe the usual care provided by general practitioners (GPs) and to compare this with recommendations of best practice in international evidence-based guidelines for the management of acute LBP.
METHODS: Care provided in 3533 patient visits to GPs for a new episode of LBP was mapped to key recommendations in treatment guidelines. The proportion of patient encounters in which care arranged by a GP aligned with these key recommendations was determined for the period 2005 through 2008 and separately for the period before the release of the local guideline in 2004 (2001-2004).
RESULTS: Although guidelines discourage the use of imaging, over one-quarter of patients were referred for imaging. Guidelines recommend that initial care should focus on advice and simple analgesics, yet only 20.5% and 17.7% of patients received these treatments, respectively. Instead, the analgesics provided were typically nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (37.4%) and opioids (19.6%). This pattern of care was the same in the periods before and after the release of the local guideline.
CONCLUSIONS: The usual care provided by GPs for LBP does not match the care endorsed in international evidence-based guidelines and may not provide the best outcomes for patients. This situation has not improved over time. The unendorsed care may contribute to the high costs of managing LBP, and some aspects of the care provided carry a higher risk of adverse effects.
This page is part of the PainScience BIBLIOGRAPHY, which contains plain language summaries of thousands of scientific papers & others sources. It’s like a highly specialized blog. A few highlights:
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