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Self-management solutions to lower back pain

NeuRA researchers are embarking on a new study to help people recover from chronic low back pain.

About 20 per cent of Australians currently experience back pain, with about one third developing chronic low back pain, where the pain extends beyond 12 weeks and sometimes lasts for years. This is a massive health burden on the nation, with Australians spending a staggering $8 billion to treat back pain each year.

Australians commonly respond to this pain by seeking medical treatment. But NeuRA researchers and international experts say the most effective method of recovery is self-management, which is the focus of the new study lead by Associate Professor James McAuley.

As head of NeuRA’s Centre for Pain IMPACT, A/Prof McAuley’s goal is to debunk the popular belief that professional help is the best method of treatment to low back pain.

His team is rolling out a project that uses social media to deliver information to the public about how to most effectively recover from this type of pain.

The team will examine contemporary discourse on social media posts to better understand conversations around low back pain. They will also review public attitudes toward the expert recommendations people commonly receive while seeking treatment.

“It’s important we understand whether people are more inclined to follow or ignore recommended methods of recovery. This is why it is vital that we investigate people’s reactions to the self-management health advice that they receive,” said NeuRA researcher, Edel O’Hagan, who is conducting the study.

The next stage of this research involves developing targeted messaging that provides the best possible advice about how people with low back pain can self-manage their treatment. This messaging will involve advice from a wide array of health professionals, such as physiotherapists, psychologists, orthopaedic surgeons and rheumatologists.

This project will deliver personalised, relevant care for people with low back pain to improve their quality of life. The findings could also help clinicians to deliver education-based interventions that are quick, effective and cost-efficient.