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'Myths and facts' education is comparable to 'facts only' for recall of back pain information but may improve fear-avoidance beliefs: an embedded randomized trial

PainSci » bibliography » Silva et al 2022
Tags: back pain, mind, pain problems, spine

One article on PainSci cites Silva 2022: The Complete Guide to Low Back Pain

PainSci commentary on Silva 2022: ?This page is one of thousands in the 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.

Does debunking myths work? This study compared two ways of teaching patients about back pain:

  1. A debunking approach, where patients were given both six common myths and the truth.
  2. A “just the facts” approach, with no discussion of myths.

There were no important differences in the effect of these approaches, in several dozen people. Either way, they got the message: that is, they could remember the facts whether they had been served with or without myths.

Boring result? Well, it’s not exciting, but these results can be taken two ways that are interesting to contrast: there’s no need to debunk myths, or there’s no problem with debunking myths. But, of course, debunking probably works a little better in some situations, and not as well in others.

Many clinicians (not enough, but many) are out there tying themselves in knots trying to decide how to handle myths: to bust or not to bust? This is reassuring: it doesn’t matter much. As long as the facts are in there, that’s the main thing. I suspect debunking is a kind of rhetorical seasoning — it makes education a little more interesting, but doesn’t change the nutritional value.

These are the myths and facts that were used:

~ 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.

OBJECTIVE: To assess the effectiveness of patient education with ‘myths and facts’ versus ‘facts only’ on recall of back pain information and fear-avoidance beliefs in patients with chronic low back pain (LBP).

DESIGN: Randomized Study Within A Trial (SWAT).

METHODS: 152 participants with chronic LBP were included. Participants allocated to the ‘facts only’ group received an information sheet with six low back pain facts, whereas those allocated to the ‘myths and facts’ group received the same information sheet, with each myth refuted by its respective fact. The primary outcome was ‘correct recall’ of back pain facts, and the secondary outcome was ‘physical activity component’ of the Fear-avoidance Avoidance Beliefs Questionnaire (FABQ-pa), two weeks after the provision of the information sheet.

RESULTS: There was no evidence of a difference in the proportion of participants with correct recall between ‘myths and facts’ and ‘facts only’ groups (OR 0.98, 95% CI: 0.48, 1.99) and no significant difference in FABQ-pa mean scores between groups (-1.58, 95% CI: -3.77, 0.61). Sensitivity analyses adjusted for prognostic factors showed no difference in information recall but a larger difference in FABQ-pa score (-2.3, 95% CI: - 4.56, -0.04).

CONCLUSIONS: We found no overall difference in recall of back pain information for patients provided ‘myths and facts’ compared with ‘facts only’ and a slight reduction in fear-avoidance beliefs for physical activity using ‘myths and facts’ compared to ‘facts only’, but the meaningfulness of this result is uncertain.

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