Article Text

Download PDFPDF
Individualised physiotherapy as an adjunct to guideline-based advice for low back disorders in primary care: a randomised controlled trial
  1. Jon J Ford1,
  2. Andrew J Hahne1,
  3. Luke D Surkitt1,
  4. Alexander Y P Chan1,
  5. Matthew C Richards1,
  6. Sarah L Slater1,
  7. Rana S Hinman2,
  8. Tania Pizzari1,
  9. Megan Davidson1,
  10. Nicholas F Taylor1
  1. 1Low Back Research Team, College of Science, Health & Engineering, La Trobe University, Bundoora, Victoria, Australia
  2. 2School of Health Sciences, The University of Melbourne, Parkville, Victoria, Australia
  1. Correspondence to Dr Jon J Ford, Low Back Research Team, Faculty of Health Sciences, La Trobe University, Bundoora, VIC 3085, Australia;{at}


Background Many patients with low-back disorders persisting beyond 6 weeks do not recover. This study investigates whether individualised physiotherapy plus guideline-based advice results in superior outcomes to advice alone in participants with low-back disorders.

Methods This prospective parallel group multicentre randomised controlled trial was set in 16 primary care physiotherapy practices in Melbourne, Australia. Random assignment resulted in 156 participants receiving 10 sessions of physiotherapy that was individualised based on pathoanatomical, psychosocial and neurophysiological barriers to recovery combined with guideline-based advice, and 144 participants receiving 2 sessions of physiotherapist-delivered advice alone. Primary outcomes were activity limitation (Oswestry Disability Index) and numerical rating scales for back and leg pain at 5, 10, 26 and 52 weeks postbaseline. Analyses were by intention-to-treat using linear mixed models.

Results Between-group differences showed significant effects favouring individualised physiotherapy for back and leg pain at 10 weeks (back: 1.3, 95% CI 0.8 to 1.8; leg: 1.1, 95% CI 0.5 to 1.7) and 26 weeks (back: 0.9, 95% CI 0.4 to 1.4; leg: 1.0, 95% CI 0.4 to 1.6). Oswestry favoured individualised physiotherapy at 10 weeks (4.7; 95% CI 2.0 to 7.5), 26 weeks (5.4; 95% CI 2.6 to 8.2) and 52 weeks (4.3; 95% CI 1.4 to 7.1). Responder analysis at 52 weeks showed participants receiving individualised physiotherapy were more likely to improve by a clinically important amount of 50% from baseline for Oswestry (relative risk (RR=1.3) 1.5; 95% CI 1.2 to 1.8) and back pain (RR 1.3; 95% CI 1.2 to 1.8) than participants receiving advice alone.

Conclusions 10 sessions of individualised physiotherapy was more effective than 2 sessions of advice alone in participants with low-back disorders of ≥6 weeks and ≤6 months duration. Between-group changes were sustained at 12 months for activity limitation and 6 months for back and leg pain and were likely to be clinically significant.

Clinical trial registration ACTRN12609000834257.

  • Physiotherapy
  • Randomised controlled trial

Statistics from

Request Permissions

If you wish to reuse any or all of this article please use the link below which will take you to the Copyright Clearance Center’s RightsLink service. You will be able to get a quick price and instant permission to reuse the content in many different ways.

Linked Articles