Advances in the Field of Low Back Pain in Primary Care: A Report from the Fourth International Forum

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Abstract

Study Design.

Review of advances in the primary care research on low back pain (LBP) from a unique international forum, and analysis of open-ended questionnaires from participants.

Summary of Background Data.

LBP continues to be one of the most common and challenging problems in primary care. It is associated with enormous costs in terms of direct health care expenditures, and indirect work and disability-related losses.

Objective.

To ascertain the current status and state of the art regarding LBP in primary care.

Methods.

Four reviewers independently assessed the content and implications of presentations at the Fourth International Forum for Primary Care Research on LBP, pooled the data, and then augmented it with open-ended questionnaires completed by 35 participants.

Results.

The Fourth Forum documented the field’s emergent new paradigm–a transition from thinking about back pain as a biomedical “injury” to viewing LBP as a multifactorial biopsychosocial pain syndrome. The paradigm shift has occurred in the context of increased interest in evidence-based medicine regarding LBP in primary care. The Forum demonstrated the strides taken in moving from research and evidence gathering, through guidelines and policy formulations and finally to the dissemination and implementation imperative. There was an increasing confidence among the Forum researchers that LBP can be managed successfully in primary care settings through a combination of encouraging activity, reassurance, short-term symptom control, and alteration of inappropriate beliefs about the correlations of back pain with impairment and disability. There is also recognition that a wide range of international, evidence-based guidelines now exists that have very similar messages.

Conclusions.

The Fourth Forum reflected a major shift in the conceptualization of LBP in primary care and an increased emphasis on implementation and dissemination of LBP research findings and clinical guidelines. Although there is a wide array of challenges ahead, the Fourth Forum provided a clear message regarding the need to focus research energies on changing practitioner behavior.

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