Low back pain in Australian adults. health provider utilization and care seeking

Bruce F Walker, Reinhold Muller, William D Grant
Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics 2004, 27 (5): 327-35

OBJECTIVE: To determine the characteristics of Australian adults who seek care for low back pain (LBP), including the type of care they choose and any factors associated with making those choices.

DESIGN: A population-based mailed survey.

SUBJECTS: An age, gender, and state stratified random sample of 2768 Australian adults selected from the Electoral Roll.

METHODS: A self-administered, fully structured questionnaire included a series of questions relating to care seeking for LBP, choice of provider, and types of treatment received. In addition, a series of questions were asked relating to demographic characteristics, socioeconomic variables, severity of LBP, cigarette smoking, anthropometric variables, perceived cause of LBP, lifetime emotional distress, job satisfaction, lifetime physical fitness, past 5-year health status, and fear of LBP causing future impairment.

RESULTS: The response rate was 69.1%. The sample proved to be similar to the Australian adult population. The majority of respondents with LBP in the past 6 months did not seek care for it (55.5%). Factors that increased care seeking were higher grades of pain and disability severity, fear of the impact of pain on future work and life, and female sex. Factors decreasing the likelihood for seeking care were identified as the cause of pain being an accident at home and also never being married. General medical practitioners and chiropractors are the most popular providers of care.

CONCLUSION: This study shows that a majority of people did not seek care for their LBP. The reasons for care seeking proved to be independent of social or economic status.

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