As part of our ongoing collaboration between Flinders University and Smart Health, we recently engaged with 2 final year physiotherapy students that were completing a Critically Appraised Topic (CAT).  After discussion, the students wanted to do something that directly assisted us, so we asked them to look into the following question;

Is a multidisciplinary approach to treatment more effective than a single practitioner approach in outpatient clients with lower back pain?  

The single practitioner profession, in this case, was physiotherapy.

We wanted to share with you a summary of what they found;

  • 1 in 6 Australians reports a low back problem.
  • It is the 2nd leading disease burden in Australia today!
  • Multidisciplinary (multiD) teams are nothing new, in fact research into functional restoration utilising multiD teams started back in the 1980s.
  • The students found four randomised trials of significance; two written in 2017, one in 2010 and one in 2011. The sample sizes were between 100 and 150 subjects.  All studies used were graded as high quality. The outcome measures used included sick days counted in the year before and after the intervention, functional work status, and pain scores.  Three out of the four studies allocated the same time of intervention whether it be stand-alone physiotherapy or a multiD approach. The makeup of the multiD teams was different in each study.
  • It was found consistently within each of the studies that physiotherapy management alone was beneficial in producing significant positive outcomes for people with lower back pain, however, that multiD approach produced consistently better results at both the short AND long term follow up.  It lead one of the authors to comment ‘The mixed strategy can treat larger amounts of people with chronic low back pain at a lower cost and provide more care in the community’.
 Perhaps something that we have known at Smart Health for a very, very long time!