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Study Finds Clinician’s Attitude Greatly Affect Patients’ Back Pain Care

Update Date: Nov 12, 2013 11:32 AM EST

Several studies have found that lower back pain often goes untreated. In a new study, researchers identified one of the reasons why this might be the case. According to the researchers, patients' perception and understanding of acute or chronic low back pain is greatly influenced by their clinicians' beliefs and attitudes. Therefore, when clinicians do not give the right kind of feedback, people might not be caring for their backs in the right way.

"Notably, we found messages from clinicians that were interpreted as meaning the back is vulnerable and needed to be protected could result in increased vigilance, worry, frustration, and guilt for patients," Ben Darlow, the lead author of the study said. These emotions could lead to more health issues since they can increase people's stress levels.

For this study, Darlow and his colleagues from the University of Otago Wellington reviewed 23 interviews with people who had acute or chronic back pain. Based on the answers, the researchers concluded that clinicians' feedback greatly influenced patients' perception of their back pain. The researchers stated that if clinicians practiced more positive feedback, reassurance and proper encouragement, patients would understand their conditions better. Improved understanding could reduce anxiety, stress and depression risk.

"Our findings suggest clinicians need to be aware of their own beliefs and the influence of these on their patients, as well as the ways in which their explanations may be interpreted by patients," Darlow said according to Medical Xpress.

The researchers' findings reiterate the importance of open communication between patients and doctors. Studies have found that patients who reported having physicians who were less sympathetic did not feel comfortable discussing issues, such as obesity. Physicians must work hard to make sure that their patients understand what they said and build a good, strong relationship.

The study was published in the international journal, Annals of Family Medicine.

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