Can practitioners’ beliefs and behaviour towards low back pain be changed? A large-scale RCT using a contextualised educational package

Authors: Evans, D., Foster, N.E.L., Vogel, S., Breen, A.C., Underwood, M. and Pincus, T.

Journal: Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery - British Volume

Volume: 87-B

Pages: 208-209

ISSN: 0301-620X


Background The three professional groups of chiropractic, osteopathy and musculoskeletal physiotherapy are involved in the management of 15–20% of people with low back pain (LBP) in the UK (CSAG 1994). Exploratory and descriptive research suggests that the management of non-specific low back pain (LBP) by some members of these groups does not follow best available evidence (RCGP 1999).

Purpose To test the short-term effectiveness (at 6 months) of a directly-posted, contextualised, printed educational package about the evidence-based management of acute back pain on changing UK chiropractors’, osteopaths’ and musculoskeletal physiotherapists’: 1) beliefs and attitudes about LBP 2) reported practice (using a clinical vignette) Methods A prospective, pragmatic randomised trial was designed to test the effectiveness of the printed educational package versus a no-intervention control. MREC approval was gained and a questionnaire was developed and piloted (n=150). Information was gathered on practitioners’ demographics, their beliefs about LBP (using the HC-PAIRS, Rainville et al 1995) and reported practice based on a vignette of a patient with non-specific LBP (adapted from Bombardier et al 1995, Buchbinder 2001).

A total of 3602 questionnaires were posted to simple random samples of UK registered chiropractors (n=611), osteopaths (n=1367) and physiotherapists (n=1624). Intervention packages were sent to consenting practitioners in March 2004, and the follow-up is planned for September 2004.

Results Good response rates to the baseline questionnaire were obtained, and most respondents were willing to participate in the RCT. Following exclusions based on a priori criteria, 1773/3402 (52.1%) participants were recruited for the RCT: chiropractors 335/604 (55.4%), osteopaths 600/1338 (44.8%) and physiotherapists 838/1460 (57.4%). The RCT methodology and some baseline data will be presented.

Conclusions It is possible to recruit large numbers of healthcare practitioners, within and outside the NHS, to RCTs conducted by post. Whilst the results will be specific to these three professional groups in the UK, this study is believed to be the largest RCT of printed, evidence-based educational material in healthcare, to incorporate a no-intervention control group.

Source: Manual

Preferred by: Alan Breen