Low Back Pain Clinical Care Standard

The Commission is developing a Low Back Pain Clinical Care Standard to provide guidance to clinicians and health service organisations when investigating and managing low back pain.

Background

Low back pain affects approximately 16% of the Australian population.1 It is estimated that 70–90% of people will suffer some form of low back pain during their lives.2 In Australia, low back pain is the most common musculoskeletal condition for which patients consult general practitioners.3

The First and Second Australian Atlas of Healthcare Variation recommended that activity be undertaken by the Commission in response to marked variation in computed tomography of the lumbar spine, lumbar spinal decompression and lumbar spinal fusion.

There is broad international consensus on the best ways to manage low back pain, but many of these recommendations have not been integrated into standard clinical practice.

The clinical care standard and supporting resources will aim to support evidence-based practice for management of low back pain and decrease the use of unnecessary, ineffective or harmful interventions. It is envisaged that the Low back Pain Clinical Care Standard will have a strong primary care focus.

The Low Back Pain Clinical Care Standard Topic Working Group

The Commission develops clinical care standards with advice from a multidisciplinary topic working group including clinicians, consumers and researchers. The Low Back Pain Clinical Care Standard Topic Working Group has been established and membership details are provided below.

All topic working group members are required to disclose financial, personal and professional interests that could, or could be perceived to, influence a decision made, or advice given to the Commission. Disclosures are managed in line with the Commission’s Policy on Disclosure of Interests.

Literature Review

To inform development, the Commission engaged KP Health to carry out a literature review to better understand the investigation and management of low back pain.

The aim of the review was to:

  • Identify and assess guidelines and systematic reviews to form the evidence base for the lower back pain clinical care standard
  • Examine reasons for variations in health care delivery for lower back pain
  • Identify programs or interventions have been used to improve health care delivery and outcomes for lower back pain.
  • Carry out an environmental scan for audits, indicators and data collection mechanisms available to support the measurement of care improvement for lower back pain.

Next Steps

Public consultation on the draft clinical care standard, evidence sources document, consumer and clinician fact sheets is scheduled for February 2021. Following public consultation, the Commission will review all comments and use this analysis to finalise the draft clinical care standard.

If you have any comments or suggestions for the Low Back Pain Clinical Care Standard, indicators or implementation, the Commission invites you to provide feedback by emailing ccs@safetyandquality.gov.au

References

1. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. Back problems. Cat. no. PHE 231. Canberra: AIHW; 2019.

2. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare 2019. Back problems. Cat. no. PHE 231. Canberra: AIHW. Viewed 22 April 2020.

3. Bardin, King, Maher, et al. Diagnostic triage for low back pain: a practical approach for primary care. MJA 206 (6) j 3 April 2017.