Background: Low back pain (LBP) is common and costly and few treatments have been shown to be markedly superior to any other. Effort has been focused on stratifying patients to better target treatment. Recently the STarT Back Screening Tool (SBT) has been developed for use in primary care to enable sub grouping of patients based on modifiable baseline characteristics and has been shown to be associated with differential outcomes. In the UK the SBT is being recommended to assist in care decisions for those presenting to general practitioners with LBP. In the light of growing recommendation for widespread use of this tool, generalisability to other LBP populations is important. However, studies to date have focused only on patients attending physiotherapy whereas LBP patients seeking other treatment have not been investigated.
Aims: This study aims to investigate the utility of the SBT to predict outcomes in LBP patients presenting for chiropractic management.
Methods: A total of 404 patients undergoing chiropractic care were asked to complete the SBT before initial treatment. Clinical outcomes were collected at 14, 30 and 90 days following this initial consultation. The clinical course was described comparing SBT categories and logistic regression analysis performed to examine the tool's prognostic utility.
Results: Although the high-risk categories had greater pain at baseline this difference rapidly faded, with both change in composite outcome scores and pain scores being statistically insignificant between the risk groups at 30 and 90 days follow up. In addition, both univariate and adjusted analysis showed no prognostic utility of the SBT categorisations to differentiate clinical outcomes between risk groups.
Conclusion: Whilst the SBT appears useful in some back pain populations it does not appear to differentiate outcomes in LBP patients seeking chiropractic care.