Medical research at Keele University has confirmed that, compared with a one-size-fits-all approach, targeted care for back pain yields better results.
It was also found that targeted care reduces healthcare costs “substantially.” The findings have been welcomed by healthcare professionals in the UK and internationally.
If you have suffered a back injury in an accident or at work, a no win, no fee solicitor can help you claim the compensation you need and deserve. This money will cover the medical costs association with rehabilitation but the new research questions whether current methods of treating back pain are genuinely effective…
Different Pains, Different Treatments
The study, published in October 2011’s issue of The Lancet, describes how patients were offered different treatments in accordance with the severity of their back pain. After receiving an assessment, 568 patients were assigned to one of three treatment groups depending on the likelihood of their back pain becoming a chronic problem. Meanwhile, 283 patients were assigned to a control group.
Patients deemed to be at low risk of developing long-term back pain received advice from a physiotherapist. Patients in the medium-risk category received intensive physiotherapy. The high-risk group of patients received intensive physiotherapy plus psychological support. In some cases, stress, anxiety, depression and other psychosocial factors act as barriers to overcoming chronic back pain.
Patients in the three targeted treatment groups each showed significantly more improvement after 12 months than did patients receiving less personalised care. Their general quality of life scores were also higher than those of the control group.
Typical Treatment ‘based on intuition’
The researchers, a team led by Dr. Elaine Hay at Keele University, write that current back pain treatment in the UK is inconsistent. They argue that current care is “based on intuition.” That is, health professionals haven’t been systematically identifying who is likely to benefit from the various treatments available; therapies such as painkillers and physiotherapy are offered inconsistently -- and without apparent rhyme or reason, some patients are only given simple advice or reassurance.
Consequently, up to 80 per cent of patients who visit a doctor for back pain still have pain a year later.
Targeted Care ‘easier on the budget’
In addition to yielding better results for patients, targeted treatment expenses were an average of about £34 lower per patient than were non-targeted treatment expenses.
Other doctors welcomed the findings. In an accompanying article in The Lancet, Dr. Bart Koes of Holland’s Erasmus University Medical Centre commented that since the targeted treatment approach is cost-effective, there’s no financial obstacle to implementation. Hay reports that the approach has already been adopted in fifty UK medical centres and is having a substantial positive impact.
Additional cost savings would also be realized. Geoffrey Podger, a spokesman for the UK’s Health and Safety Executive (HSE), reported in 2009 that back pain was responsible for 4.5 million lost work days each year. This translates to about £335 million in employers’ expenses.
The Keele University study was funded by Arthritis Research UK.
By James Christie
[Photo accompanying this article by Wellcome Images]