Study design: A double-blind, randomized controlled trial of a novel educational booklet compared with a traditional booklet for patients seeking treatment in primary care for acute or recurrent low back pain.
Objective: To test the impact of a novel educational booklet on patients' beliefs about back pain and functional outcome.
Summary of background data: The information and advice that health professionals give to patients may be important in health care intervention, but there is little scientific evidence of their effectiveness. A novel patient educational booklet, The Back Book, has been developed to provide evidence-based information and advice consistent with current clinical guidelines.
Methods: One hundred sixty-two patients were given either the experimental booklet or a traditional booklet. The main outcomes studied were fear-avoidance beliefs about physical activity, beliefs about the inevitable consequences of back trouble, the Roland Disability Questionnaire, and visual analogue pain scales. Postal follow-up response at 1 year after initial treatment was 78%.
Results: Patients receiving the experimental booklet showed a statistically significant greater early improvement in beliefs which was maintained at 1 year. A greater proportion of patients with an initially high fear-avoidance beliefs score who received the experimental booklet had clinically important improvement in fear-avoidance beliefs about physical activity at 2 weeks, followed by a clinically important improvement in the Roland Disability Questionnaire score at 3 months. There was no effect on pain.
Conclusion: This trial shows that carefully selected and presented information and advice about back pain can have a positive effect on patients' beliefs and clinical outcomes, and suggests that a study of clinically important effects in individual patients may provide further insights into the management of low back pain.