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Low Back Pain Clinical Care Standard
The Low Back Pain Clinical Care Standard aims to improve the early assessment, management, review and appropriate referral of patients with this common health condition.
The national standard was released by the Commission on 1 September 2022.
National launch and live webcast
Experts in pain management, emergency medicine, physiotherapy and general practice discuss and explain the Low Back Pain Clinical Care Standard at its launch on 1 September 2022.
Show your support for the clinical care standard by downloading and sharing the content on your website, social networks or within your health service organisation.
To help you share and promote the clinical care standard within your networks, a
communications kit and launch presentation slides are available for download.
Download the standard
Low back pain is a common form of back problem that affects most people at some point in their lives1. As well as pain, it often leads to psychological distress and poorer quality of life2,3.4 and is a leading cause of disability worldwide5.
Contents of the standard and resources
The Low Back Pain Clinical Care Standard includes:
- Eight quality statements describing the care that should be provided
- A set of indicators to support monitoring and quality improvement
Information and resources are available for consumers, clinicians, and healthcare services, or you can see the complete list of implementation resources.
Consultation and endorsement
The standard was developed in consultation with a topic working group of clinicians, researchers and consumers. Public consultation on the clinical care standard was carried out between March and April 2021.
The standard has been endorsed by 19 key professional associations and consumer organisations including the Australian College of Emergency Medicine (ACEM), Australian College of Rural and Remote Medicine (ACRRM), Australian Physiotherapy Association (APA), The Royal Australasian College of Physicians (RACP), Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Radiologists (RANZCR), Spine Society of Australia (SSA) and the Australian Pain Society (APS).
The standard is supported by the Consumer Health Forum (CHF) and the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP).
Further information is available on the evidence base which underpins the Low Back Pain Clinical Care Standard, and the rapid literature and evidence review commissioned to inform the standard’s development.
In Australia, back problems are the number one cause of lost work productivity, early retirement and income poverty.6,7,8,9,10 In 2018–19, more money was spent on managing musculoskeletal disorders, including back problems, than any other category of disease, condition or injury in Australia.11
The Australian Atlas of Healthcare Variation series has identified marked variation across Australia relevant to the care of low back pain, including in:
- Computed tomography (CT) of the lumbar spine12
- Opioid medicine use12,13
- Lumbar spinal surgery.12,13,14
The Second Australian Atlas of Healthcare Variation (second Atlas) identified a need for comprehensive Australian guidance on the early management of low back pain, based on the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence guideline Low Back Pain and Sciatica in Over 16s: Assessment and management, and other relevant high-quality Australian and international evidence.14
The second Atlas recommended that the Australian guidance support appropriate early management, and ensure that patients are informed about and understand the range of treatment options available for low back pain, their risks and their likelihood of benefit.14
Improved uptake of guideline recommendations for management of low back pain has been shown to result in better patient outcomes, such as in the extent and rate of recovery and a reduced need for ongoing care.15,16 It could also lead to more judicious use of imaging; lead to more appropriate use of opioids, other medicines and invasive therapies; and ultimately mean that more patients receive high‑value care.7,17,18,19