Those with LBP who seek treatment versus those who just cope

This cross sectional survey included over 1000 adults with low back pain (LBP). Believe it or not, only 28% of them reported that they had seen a health care practitioner in the past month for their back. This means that the majority of people with LBP either never seek treatment, or at some point stop seeking treatment.


This study wanted to see if there was a difference among those who actively seek care versus those who don’t bother seeking care for their LBP.


The following characteristics were all significantly related to care seeking:


  • Being a female
  • Age over 40
  • Not working full-time
  • Lower income
  • Limitations in ADL
  • Worse general health e.g. heart, diabetes
  • Higher fear avoidance beliefs regarding LBP


So what can we learn?

We learn that not all individuals who have LBP seek treatment; in fact the majority seem to just cope with the pain and move on. Those who don’t seek treatment are more likely to be young males who are busy working full-time at a good paying job, have no real disability due to their back pain, and believe that their pain is benign and not dangerous.


Personal Comment: Anecdotally I find patients who are young, working full-time in a job they enjoy, and are already active have the best outcomes.


I’ve also noticed that those who are independently self-employed do much better than those who are part of a union. Perhaps I’m stereotyping!


Reference: Mannion AF Association between beliefs and care-seeking behavior for low back pain. Spine (Phila Pa 1976). 2013 May 20;38(12):1016-25.

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