Background and purpose: Contemporary guidelines for the management of low back pain often consider patient involvement and responsibility an essential component; however, there has been little exploration of patients' opinions about back pain and its management.
Method: A qualitative study of patients' perspectives of back pain in the UK; 34 semi-structured interviews were conducted with participants who had recently received physiotherapy for back pain; interviews were transcribed and analysed using framework analysis. A topic guide was used to steer the interview and themes were extracted from the data.
Results: Thirteen key themes were revealed; seven of these related to issues of satisfaction with physiotherapy and are described elsewhere. The six themes considered here dealt with the participants' experience of and attitudes to back pain and its management. Themes were: the impact of back pain on their life; perspectives about back pain; its management; their involvement in its management; what strategies they had for self-management; and expectations about the episode of physiotherapy beforehand.
Conclusions: In this group of participants with a history of back pain and physiotherapy treatment a common finding was a degree of acceptance of the back pain problem and the belief that patient involvement in management was essential. These findings would suggest that many patients with back pain may respond positively to the message of self-management. However, acceptance of this message was not automatic, but generally occurred gradually in line with patients' experience of back pain and treatment.