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Patient-led Goal Setting: A Pilot Study Investigating a Promising Approach for the Management of Chronic Low Back Pain

Gardner, Tania BAppSc; Refshauge, Kathryn OAM, FAHMS DipPhty, GradDipManipTher, MBiomedE, PhD; McAuley, James PhD; Goodall, Stephen PhD, BSc, MSc; Hübscher, Markus PhD; Smith, Lorraine BA (Hons), PhD

doi: 10.1097/BRS.0000000000001545
Randomized Trial

Study Design. A prospective, single-arm, pre-postintervention study.

Objective. The aim of this study was to test the preliminary effectiveness of a patient-led goal-setting intervention on improving disability and pain in chronic low back pain.

Summary of Background Data. An effective intervention for the treatment of chronic low back pain remains elusive despite extensive research into the area.

An intervention using patient-centered goal setting to drive intervention strategies and encourage self-management for patients suffering chronic low back was developed.

Methods. A single group longitudinal cohort pilot study was conducted. Twenty participants (male = nine) experiencing chronic low back pain were involved in a patient-led goal-setting intervention, facilitated by a physiotherapist over a 2-month period with two monthly follow-up sessions after treatment conclusion. Participants, guided by the therapist, identified problem areas of personal importance, defined goals, and developed evidence-based strategies to achieve the goals. Participants implemented the strategies independently between sessions. Primary outcome measures of disability and pain intensity were measured at baseline, 2, and 4 months. Secondary measures of quality of life, stress and anxiety, self-efficacy, and fear of movement were also taken.

Results. Significant improvements (repeated analysis of variance P < 0.05) were seen in measures of disability, pain, fear avoidance, quality of life, and self-efficacy over the period of intervention and were maintained for a further 2 months after treatment conclusion.

Conclusion. This intervention is novel because the goals set are based on patients’ personal preferences, and not on treatment guidelines. Our findings confirm that a patient-centered goal-setting intervention is a potentially effective intervention for the management of chronic low back pain showing significant improvements in both quality of life and pain intensity.

Level of Evidence: 4

*Faculty of Pharmacy, Sydney University, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

Faculty of Health Sciences, Sydney University, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

Neuroscience Research Australia, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

§Centre for Health Economics Research & Evaluation, University of Technology Sydney, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia.

Address correspondence and reprint requests to Tania Gardner, BAppSc, Faculty of Pharmacy, Science Road, Sydney University, NSW 2006 Australia. E-mail:

Received 8 September, 2015

Revised 30 January, 2016

Accepted 2 February, 2016

The manuscript submitted does not contain information about medical device(s)/drug(s).

No funds were received in support of this work.

No relevant financial activities outside the submitted work.

Copyright © 2016 Wolters Kluwer Health, Inc. All rights reserved.