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Clinical Studies

Information and Advice to Patients With Back Pain Can Have a Positive Effect: A Randomized Controlled Trial of a Novel Educational Booklet in Primary Care

Burton, A. Kim PhD, DO*; Waddell, Gordon DSc, MD, FRCS†; Tillotson, K. Malcolm CStat*; Summerton, Nick MA, MPH, MRCGP*

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Abstract

Study Design. A double-blind, randomized controlled trial of a novel educational booklet compared with a traditional booklet for patients seeking treatment in primary care for acute or recurrent low back pain.

Objective. To test the impact of a novel educational booklet on patients’ beliefs about back pain and functional outcome.

Summary of Background Data. The information and advice that health professionals give to patients may be important in health care intervention, but there is little scientific evidence of their effectiveness. A novel patient educational booklet, The Back Book, has been developed to provide evidence-based information and advice consistent with current clinical guidelines.

Methods. One hundred sixty-two patients were given either the experimental booklet or a traditional booklet. The main outcomes studied were fear-avoidance beliefs about physical activity, beliefs about the inevitable consequences of back trouble, the Roland Disability Questionnaire, and visual analogue pain scales. Postal follow-up response at 1 year after initial treatment was 78%.

Results. Patients receiving the experimental booklet showed a statistically significant greater early improvement in beliefs which was maintained at 1 year. A greater proportion of patients with an initially high fear-avoidance beliefs score who received the experimental booklet had clinically important improvement in fear-avoidance beliefs about physical activity at 2 weeks, followed by a clinically important improvement in the Roland Disability Questionnaire score at 3 months. There was no effect on pain.

Conclusion. This trial shows that carefully selected and presented information and advice about back pain can have a positive effect on patients’ beliefs and clinical outcomes, and suggests that a study of clinically important effects in individual patients may provide further insights into the management of low back pain.

© 1999 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.

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