No 'one size fits all' solution to managing lower back pain, says College

Publication date: 21 March 2018

Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, Chair of the Royal College of GPs, has responded to a study in The Lancet about lower back pain.

She said: "Lower back pain causes misery for a huge and growing number of patients right across the UK – it is something that GPs see in our consultation rooms on a daily basis, and what is clear is that one size does not fit all in terms of managing the pain.

"It's important that any treatment plan is developed in conversation with the patient, tailored to their needs, taking into account the many different factors that might be impacting on their health. GPs will also be mindful of clinical guidelines, such as NICE guidelines in England, which currently advocate an approach that combines physical, psychological and pharmacological treatments.

"We know that being active and working is good for our patients' health, so GPs and our teams will readily advocate lifestyle changes to patients that can help ease their pain and keep them in work, but for some patients, particularly in more serious cases, there is a limit to how realistic a significant amount of exercise is.

"For these patients whilst not a cure, drug-therapy can provide a great deal of relief and should not be dismissed entirely - the most effective approach, as with any medication, is that it should be prescribed at the lowest possible dose for the shortest possible time. It is also the case that access to psychological treatments, such as talking therapies, which we know can be beneficial for patients suffering from lower back pain, is patchy across the country.

"It's clear from this study that much more needs to be done worldwide, to dispel myths around the best ways to treat back pain – rest, for example, is one of the worst approaches, yet this advice is commonplace in many countries.

"This is a really interesting and important study that should give healthcare professionals across the world a lot of food for thought, but also poses helpful challenge to those producing clinical guidelines – and it's important that the findings are taken seriously and into consideration as guidelines are developed and updated."

Further Information

RCGP Press office: 020 3188 7574/7575/7633/7410
Out of hours: 0203 188 7659
press@rcgp.org.uk

Notes to editor

The Royal College of General Practitioners is a network of more than 52,000 family doctors working to improve care for patients. We work to encourage and maintain the highest standards of general medical practice and act as the voice of GPs on education, training, research and clinical standards.

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