26 September 2023

New health standard for dodgy backs

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In a national first the Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care (ACSQHC) has launched a standard of care for lower back pain.

Releasing its resource Low Back Pain Clinical Care Standard, the Commission said the Standard described the care that people could expect to receive if they went to a primary healthcare provider or a hospital emergency department with a new problem of low back pain.

“This could be new pain or a flare-up of an ongoing problem,” ACSQHC said.

“Most people will experience low back pain at some point in their life,” it said.

“Usually, low back pain gets better within a few weeks, with simple self-management or treatment strategies.”

ACSQHC said however that for some people, lower back pain could last longer or need additional treatment.

It said the new Standard contained eight quality statements describing the care that people could expect to receive, including an initial clinical assessment, a psychosocial assessment, and patient education and advice.

The Commission said the Standard also included a commitment to reserve imaging for suspected serious pathology.

“In most cases of low back pain, an imaging test such as an X-ray, a CT (computed tomography) scan or MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) is not necessary,” it said.

“These tests are usually only needed when your clinician needs to rule out a serious cause for your back pain.

“It is important to remember that more than 95 per cent of low back pain cases do not have serious underlying causes.”

Under the standard, ACSQHC said clinicians should encourage self-management and physical activity; physical and/or psychological interventions; judicious use of pain medicines; and reassess cases of worsening symptoms for referral.

ACSQHC’s five-page Guide for Consumers on the Low Back Pain Clinical Care Standard can be accessed at this PS News link and its 63-page Standard at this link.

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