How effective are evidence-based guidelines for managing low back pain?

Low back pain is the leading cause of disability worldwide and costs the Australian healthcare system more than $9 billion a year, underscoring the importance of effective guidelines for healthcare professionals to manage this debilitating condition.

Through his Dean’s Postdoctoral Research Fellowship, Dr Patrick Owen is working with public (Eastern Health) and private (Epworth HealthCare) hospital providers to evaluate adherence to and efficacy, barriers and facilitators of implementation of guideline-based management of low back pain (LBP).

Evidence-based guidelines for the diagnosis and treatment of LBP are necessary to reduce healthcare costs and improve patient outcomes, Dr Owen said.

As part of his project, he has developed an audit tool to review patient charts for those presenting with LBP within participating emergency departments, to assess adherence to management guidelines.

He is also recruiting patients presenting to emergency departments with LBP, and tracking them over time to determine which management pathways result in better patient outcomes and reduced costs.

“The findings from this 12-week cohort study will inform the development and implementation of a guideline-based translational package of interventions for practitioners and patients,” Dr Owen said.

“My goal is to assist practitioners to improve the diagnosis and management of low back pain, and ultimately improve health outcomes for patients.”