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31-10-2012 | General practice | Article

Back pain ‘needs more self-care support’


Free abstract

medwireNews: Back pain patients need greater support for self-care from their GPs, show the results of a UK study. However, the authors say that alternative strategies may be needed to help patients who are resistant to GP involvement.

"Individual patient preferences for self-care and self-care support need to be taken into account to ensure that support is effective," say Fiona MacKichan (University of Bristol) and colleagues. "This will also help to prevent 'imposing' self-care support on those for whom messages about self-care are felt to be intrusive."

The study was based on face-to-face interviews with 23 back pain patients. The authors found that most patients engaged in some form of self-care, such as exercise or applying heat. However, they noted that while patients often felt obliged to self-care, this did not always match their ability to do so.

At least half of the patients said that they would like more support from their GP, despite many expressing doubt around what support their GP could realistically provide. Some patients held strong beliefs that self-care was something separate to the medical care provided by their GP, and therefore did not see their GP as a source of support for their condition.

The authors say that GPs could help improve patients' self-care by dealing with patients' specific concerns or providing advice at certain times, such as at diagnosis. Furthermore, patients would benefit from signposting to reliable sources of information and support by their GP.

They caution, however, that other strategies, such as community peer-based support, may be needed for patients who are against GP involvement. "We need to find ways to identify those patients who would most benefit from self-care support and determine what support is reasonable and feasible in the context of family practice," MacKichan and colleagues conclude in Family Practice.

Commissioners are currently being encouraged to develop support for patients to self-manage back pain, as Dr Ollie Hart, a GP in Sheffield and MSK Commissioning Lead, described to univadis at a recent RCGP conference on pain management (click here to watch the interview).

medwireNews ( is an independent clinical news service provided by Springer Healthcare Limited. © Springer Healthcare Ltd; 2012

By Kirsty Oswald