On Februrary 8th, 2010 a survey was published in the Archives of Internal Medicine regarding the management of acute low back pain in general practice to see if low back pain guidelines were being followed.  In summary, the care being provided did not match evidence based care.  Primarily, too much imaging and incorrect pharmaceuticals used for acute low back pain.  The study categorized spinal manipulation under a general therapy catagory, so it is unclear how often GP’s refer for spinal manipulation.  The following is the abstract, and full text of the article can be found here.

Low Back Pain and Best Practice Care

A Survey of General Practice Physicians

Christopher M. Williams, MAppSc; Christopher G. Maher, PhD; Mark J. Hancock, PhD; James H. McAuley, PhD; Andrew J. McLachlan, PhD; Helena Britt, PhD; Salma Fahridin, MHSc; Christopher Harrison, MSocHlth; Jane Latimer, PhD

Archives of Internal Medicine 2010;170(3):271-277.

Background  Acute low back pain (LBP) is primarily managed in general practice. We aimed to describe the usual care provided by general practitioners (GPs) and to compare this with recommendations of best practice in international evidence-based guidelines for the management of acute LBP.

Methods  Care provided in 3533 patient visits to GPs for a new episode of LBP was mapped to key recommendations in treatment guidelines. The proportion of patient encounters in which care arranged by a GP aligned with these key recommendations was determined for the period 2005 through 2008 and separately for the period before the release of the local guideline in 2004 (2001-2004).

Results  Although guidelines discourage the use of imaging, over one-quarter of patients were referred for imaging. Guidelines recommend that initial care should focus on advice and simple analgesics, yet only 20.5% and 17.7% of patients received these treatments, respectively. Instead, the analgesics provided were typically nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (37.4%) and opioids (19.6%). This pattern of care was the same in the periods before and after the release of the local guideline.

Conclusions  The usual care provided by GPs for LBP does not match the care endorsed in international evidence-based guidelines and may not provide the best outcomes for patients. This situation has not improved over time. The unendorsed care may contribute to the high costs of managing LBP, and some aspects of the care provided carry a higher risk of adverse effects.