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Better targeting care for individuals with low back pain: opportunities and obstacles
  1. Kieran O'Sullivan1,2,
  2. Peter O'Sullivan3,
  3. Kjartan Vibe Fersum4,
  4. Peter Kent3,5
  1. 1Aspetar Orthopaedic and Sports Medicine Hospital, Doha, Qatar
  2. 2Department of Clinical Therapies, University of Limerick, Limerick, Ireland
  3. 3School of Physiotherapy and Exercise Science, Curtin University, Perth, Western Australia, Australia
  4. 4Department of Global Public Health and Primary Care, University of Bergen, Bergen, Norway
  5. 5Department of Sports Science and Clinical Biomechanics, University of Southern Denmark, Odense, Denmark
  1. Correspondence to Dr Kieran O'Sullivan, Aspetar Orthopaedic and Sports Medicine Hospital, Doha 29222, Qatar; kieran.osullivan{at}

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The disability burden due to low back pain (LBP) continues to increase despite increased healthcare costs. There is growing interest in better targeting care for LBP, rather than adopting a ‘one size fits all’ approach, in order to optimally manage the well-recognised heterogeneity of patients with LBP.1–4

This challenge of patient heterogeneity has been approached in different ways. Stratified care, where patients are classified based on certain characteristics and then matched to appropriate treatment pathways, is one relatively simple and efficient method of targeting care.2 Subgrouping approaches based on identifying common clinical features, usually within a single dimension (ie, pain characteristics, movement patterns, psychological profiles), have also been proposed as a way to target care.5 Individualised care goes one step further with each person, as opposed to groups of people, receiving personally tailored care.1 ,3 ,4 However, what does individualised care actually mean?

Many clinicians would argue that they always provide individualised care. However, what this looks like in clinical practice is probably biased by our professional backgrounds, beliefs and …

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  • Twitter Follow Kjartan Vibe Fersum at @kjartanfersum, @kieranosull, @peteosullivanPT, @kjartanfersum, @pain_eddotcom

  • Contributors All authors contributed to this editorial, with the lead taken by KOS.

  • Competing interests All four authors have been, or are currently, been involved in trials examining individualised care for LBP. Three of the authors (POS, KOS and KVF) receive honoraria for providing lectures/workshops on the management of LBP.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.