How does the self-reported clinical management of patients with low back pain relate to the attitudes and beliefs of health care practitioners? A survey of UK general practitioners and physiotherapists


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Abstract

Guidelines for the management of low back pain (LBP) have existed for many years, but adherence to these by health care practitioners (HCPs) remains suboptimal. The aim of this study was to measure the attitudes, beliefs and reported clinical behaviour of UK physiotherapists (PTs) and general practitioners (GPs) about LBP and to explore the associations between these. A cross-sectional postal survey of GPs (n = 2000) and PTs (n = 2000) was conducted that included the Pain Attitudes and Beliefs Scale (PABT.PT), and a vignette of a patient with non-specific LBP (NSLBP) with questions asking about recommendations for work, activity and bedrest. Data from 1022 respondents (442 GPs and 580 PTs) who had recently treated patients with LBP were analysed. Although the majority of HCPs reported providing advice for the vignette patient that was broadly in line with guideline recommendations, 28% reported they would advise this patient to remain off work. Work advice was significantly related to the PABS.PT scores with higher biomedical (F1,986 = 77.5, p < 0.0001) and lower behavioural (F1,981 = 31.9, p < 0.001) scores associated with advice to remain off work. We have demonstrated that the attitudes and reported practice behaviour of UK GPs and PTs for patients with NSLBP are diverse. Many HCPs held the belief that LBP necessitates some avoidance of activities and work. The attitudes and beliefs of these HCPs were associated with their self-reported clinical behaviour regarding advice about work. Future studies need to investigate whether approaches aimed at modifying these HCP factors can lead to improved patient outcomes.

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