The management of chronic neck pain in general practice. A retrospective study

J Borghouts, H Janssen, B Koes, J Muris, J Metsemakers, L Bouter
Scandinavian Journal of Primary Health Care 1999, 17 (4): 215-20

OBJECTIVE: To describe the management in patients with chronic non-specific neck pain in general practice.

DESIGN: A descriptive, questionnaire-based retrospective study.

SETTING: General practices in the Netherlands.

PATIENTS: 517 patients with chronic non-specific neck pain.

MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Nature and frequency of diagnostic procedures, therapeutic interventions and referrals by the general practitioner (GP).

RESULTS: Forty-four per cent visited the GP for neck pain in the previous year. Of the patients who did visit the GP in the previous year, 32% did not receive a diagnostic modality, 31% did not receive therapy and 43% were not referred. The most frequently applied diagnostic and therapeutic modalities were physical examination (66%) and pain medication (58%), respectively. The GPs most frequently referred to a physiotherapist (51%).

CONCLUSION: Once neck pain has become chronic, the minority (44%) of patients do seek help from their GP on a yearly base. In spite of the fact that the patients' conditions are non-specific and chronic, GPs still find indications for further diagnostics in two-thirds of patients. The GPs were rather consistent in their management, as the nature of the diagnostic/therapeutic modalities and referrals was similar in more than 50% of the patients.

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