The treatment of lower back pain took a major leap forward following the release of the Low Back Pain Clinical Care Standard which outlined a much-needed shift in the approach to how the common health condition is addressed.
The new standard, published by the Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care, advocates for an active approach to support the one in six Australians who suffer from low back pain.
OUT NOW | The first national clinical care standard for low back pain will improve how we assess and manage this common #health issue, which can cause considerable distress for many Australians.
— ACSQHC (@ACSQHC) August 31, 2022
Gone are the days when bed rest, pain medication and surgery were the go-to methods for alleviating a patient’s back pain with the promotion of physical activity, and self-management as the new standard to reduce pain and aid recovery.
Clinical Director at the Commission and clinical lead for the new standard, Associate Professor Liz Marles said the new standard which “describes how active self-managed strategies that educate people about their pain and how to remain physically active” are the “most effective to restore health”.
“Contrary to past schools of thought, for most cases of low back pain, we know that passive approaches such as bed rest and medication can lead to worsening disability,” Marles explained.
“Also, if pain medicines are prescribed, they should be used to enable physical activities to help people recover, rather than eliminate pain.”
Professor of Musculoskeletal Physiotherapy at Curtin University, Professor Peter O’Sullivan stressed the need for consistency in how back pain is managed, claiming that “the evidence shows, and the standard reaffirms, that regular and graduated movement and activity are central to a better outcome for many people with an acute low back pain episode”.
“Low back pain is one of the most feared health conditions. We have a societal problem around the fundamental beliefs about back pain. There are many cases of fear-induced over-treatment of patients, which can make their condition worse,” he said.
“As practitioners, we need to understand what is going on with each patient and help them with a specific recovery plan.
“With an ageing population, growing obesity rates and an increasingly sedentary lifestyle, implementing the new clinical care standard is our best chance to remove barriers to good patient outcomes. The recommendations aim to reduce investigations and treatments that may be ineffective or harmful.”
With the new standard for care in place, Marles is hopeful they “can break the cycle and prevent a new episode of low back pain becoming a chronic problem for many Australians”.
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