486: Communicating and diagnosing non-specific low back pain: A qualitative study of the healthcare practitioners perspectives using a social diagnosis framework

Arnborg Lund R, Kongsted A, Bäcker Hansen E, Myburgh C.
Journal of Rehabilitation Medicine. 2020;52(3)


Background: There is general agreement that non-specific low back pain is best understood within a biopsychosocial understanding of health. However, clinicians and patients seemingly adhere to a biomedically derived diagnostic model, which may introduce misperceptions of pain and does not inform treatment or prognosis.

Objective: To explore, from the perspective of health-care practitioners, how persistent non- specific low back pain may be communicated in a way that moves beyond a biomedical diagnosis.

Design: An explorative qualitative investigation using a constructivist diagnostic framework.

Methods: Focus group and individual interviews of 10 purposefully selected chiropractors, physio-therapists and general practitioners were codified and thematically analysed.

Results: Four themes emerged: "Clinicians' nuanced understanding of back pain"; "The challenges of shared decision-making"; "Cultural barriers to moving beyond biomedicine"; and "More than a label - individual explanations for pain". Pain and disability were perceived as products of multiple bio-psycho-social factors. Clinicians identified the impact of multiple social actors, an unhealthy work culture, and the organization of the medical system on the notion of pain and suffering.

Conclusion: Clinicians perceived a need to communicate the complexity of non-specific low back pain in order to help patients make sense of their condition, rather than applying diagnostic labelling. There are multiple barriers to integrating a constructivistic diagnostic framework that need to be overcome.

Keywords: attitude of health personnel; culture, qualitative research; diagnosis; health communication; low back pain.

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