Patient-Reported Physician Treatment Recommendations and Compliance Among U.S. Adults with Low Back Pain.

Journal Article (Journal Article)

Objectives: Numerous recently published clinical care guidelines, including the 2017 American College of Physicians (ACP) Guideline for Low Back Pain (LBP), call for nonpharmacological approaches to pain management. However, little data exist regarding the extent to which these guidelines have been adopted by patients and medical doctors. The study objective was to determine patient-reported treatment recommendations by medical doctors for LBP and patient compliance with those recommendations. Design: This study used a cross-sectional web and mail survey. Settings/Location: The study was conducted among Gallup Panel members across the United States. Subjects: Survey participants included 5377 U.S. adults randomly selected among Gallup Panel members. Of those, 545 reported a visit to a medical doctor within the past year for low back pain and were asked a series of follow-up questions regarding treatment recommendations. Interventions: Participants were asked about medical doctor recommendations for both drug (acetaminophen, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs [NSAIDs], opioids, benzodiazepines, Gabapentin, Neurontin, and cortisone injections) and nondrug (self-care treatments, massage, acupuncture, spinal manipulation, and physical therapy) treatments. Outcome Measures: Participants were asked to indicate if their medical doctor recommended each drug and nondrug therapy for their LBP and if they had followed each of those treatment recommendations. Results: Ninety-six percent of patients who visited a medical doctor for LBP received a recommendation for one or more pain treatments, with 81% reporting that their medical doctor recommended both drug and nondrug therapies. Seventy-six percent of respondents were recommended acetaminophen or NSAIDs, 79% were recommended self-care treatments, 37% were recommended massage, acupuncture, or spinal manipulation, and 60% were recommended physical therapy. Nearly two-thirds of our sample reported that their doctor had recommended prescription medications, including opioids, benzodiazepines, Gabapentin, Neurontin, or cortisone injections. Reported adherence to treatment recommendations ranged from 68% for acupuncture to 94% for NSAIDs. Conclusions: One year after publication of the ACP's Guideline on LBP, patients report that medical doctors recommended both pharmacological and nonpharmacological treatment approaches to patients with LBP. In the majority of cases, a combination of prescription medications and self-care were recommended, illustrating the need for additional research on the effectiveness of multi-modal treatment strategies. Patients reported that they were largely compliant with medical doctor recommendations, underscoring the influence that medical doctors have in directing patient care for LBP. These findings indicate that further work is also needed to explore the impact of personal experience, training, clinical evidence, sociocultural factors, and health plans on medical doctors therapeutic recommendations in the context of back pain.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Goertz, CM; Long, CR; English, C; Meeker, WC; Marchiori, DM

Published Date

  • March 2021

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 27 / S1

Start / End Page

  • S99 - S105

PubMed ID

  • 33788609

Pubmed Central ID

  • 33788609

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1557-7708

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1089/acm.2020.0392


  • eng

Conference Location

  • United States