Background: Low back pain (LBP) is a common and costly problem. Initiatives designed to assist practitioner and patient decisions about appropriate healthcare for LBP include printed evidence-based clinical guidelines. The three professional groups of chiropractic, osteopathy and musculoskeletal physiotherapy in the UK share common ground with their approaches to managing LBP and are amongst those targeted by LBP guidelines. Even so, many seem unaware that such guidelines exist. Furthermore, the behaviour of at least some of these practitioners differs from that recommended in these guidelines. Few randomised controlled trials evaluating printed information as an intervention to change practitioner behaviour have utilised a no-intervention control. All these trials have used a cluster design and most have methodological flaws. None specifically focus upon practitioner behaviour towards LBP patients. Studies that have investigated other strategies to change practitioner behaviour with LBP patients have produced conflicting results. Although numerous LBP guidelines have been developed worldwide, there is a paucity of data on whether their dissemination actually changes practitioner behaviour. Primarily because of its low unit cost, sending printed information to large numbers of practitioners is an attractive dissemination and implementation strategy. The effect size of such a strategy, at an individual practitioner level, is likely to be small. However, if large numbers of practitioners are targeted, this strategy might achieve meaningful changes at a population level.
Methods: The primary aim of this prospective, pragmatic randomised controlled trial is to test the short-term effectiveness (six-months following intervention) of a directly-posted information package on the reported clinical behaviour (primary outcome), attitudes and beliefs of UK chiropractors, osteopaths and musculoskeletal physiotherapists. We sought to randomly allocate a combined sample of 1,800 consenting practitioners to receive either the information package (intervention arm) or no information above that gained during normal practice (control arm). We collected questionnaire data at baseline and six-months post-intervention. The analysis of the primary outcome will assess between-arm differences of proportions of responses to questions on recommendations about activity, work and bed-rest, that fall within categories previously defined by an expert consensus exercise as either 'guideline-consistent' and 'guideline-inconsistent'.