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In a prospective trial, 222 adults with low-back pain of at least 2 weeks' duration in a Health Maintenance Organization (HMO) were randomly assigned to usual care (UC), a 4-hour back school psychoeducational session (LBS), or the same back school plus a 1-year “compliance package” program designed to encourage appropriate self-management for back pain (CP). Sixty-four percent of LBS and CP subjects attended their back school sessions. Follow-up measurement of pain level (using the Visual Analogue Scale), functional status (using the Sickness Impact Profile), and various other indicators of health status showed no measurable effect of either treatment condition (LBS or CP) compared with UC at 3, 6, 12, and 18 months after entry into the study. Initial disability resolved by 3 months in most patients, and a minority of subjects (10–15%) showed residual or recurrent functional Impairment 1 year after entry. Health care utilization tended to be slightly higher after intervention In the CP group. With or without follow-up encouragement, back school instructions given in a single 4-hour session had no measurable impact on the comfort or functional status of the majority of patients with new onset back pain in this HMO.