Medicine & Health

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  • (2022) O'Hagan, Edel
    Low back pain is common and burdensome. The economic burden of low back pain in Australia includes total costs that exceed A$8 billion per year, costs which are projected to increase by 60% over the next 10 years. Less is known about the personal burden of low back pain. The first-line treatment consistently recommended for people with low back pain is patient education and advice. Regardless of the duration of low back pain, clinicians should provide advice to remain active, education on the benign nature of low back pain, and reassurance about the absence of a serious medical condition. Little guidance is available on how best this can be achieved. New treatments are urgently required to stem the rising costs of low back pain. Two proposed strategies are repurposing medicines, such as sleep medicines and media campaigns to target unhelp behaviours and beliefs. The overarching aim of this thesis was to investigate the personal burden of low back pain, evaluate attitudes toward education and advice for low back pain and explore contemporary options for managing low back pain. The methods used included qualitative content analysis, an observational study, development and evaluation of a new measurement tool, a systematic review and a randomised controlled trial. People with and without low back pain, online and in-person were recruited to participate across the five studies. The findings from each study are presented in individual chapters. The evidence in this thesis provides a scientific basis for understanding the personal burden of low back pain. The results describe how evaluating attitude toward education and advice could enable clinicians to tailor the patient education and advice they provide. Specific messages of reassurance rather than information about staying active should be prioritised. The Attitude toward Education and advice for Low back pain Questionnaire (AxEL-Q) is a valid and reliable tool to provide clinicians with an insight into attitudes toward education and advice at the outset of a clinical encounter. Sleep medicines should be further investigated before being endorsed to reduce pain intensity in people with acute low back pain. Social media and digital health interventions such as conversational agents provide options for supplementing low back pain management in the future.