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Mass media campaigns are needed to counter misconceptions about back pain and promote higher value care
  1. Mary O’Keeffe1,2,
  2. Chris G Maher1,2,
  3. Tasha R Stanton3,4,
  4. Neil E O’Connell5,
  5. Sameer Deshpande6,
  6. Douglas P Gross7,
  7. Kieran O’Sullivan8,9
  1. 1 School of Public Health, Faculty of Medicine and Health, University of Sydney, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
  2. 2 Institute for Musculoskeletal Health, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
  3. 3 School of Health Sciences & PainAdelaide Consortium, The University of South Australia, Adelaide, South Australia, Australia
  4. 4 Neuroscience Research Australia, Randwick, New South Wales, Australia
  5. 5 Health Economics Research Group, Department of Clinical Sciences, Institute of Environment, Health and Societies, Brunel University London, Uxbridge, UK
  6. 6 Department of Marketing, Griffith Business School, Griffith University, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia
  7. 7 Department of Physical Therapy, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
  8. 8 Sports Spine Centre, Aspetar Orthopaedic and Sports Medicine Hospital, Doha, Qatar
  9. 9 School of Allied Health, University of Limerick, Limerick, Ireland
  1. Correspondence to Dr Mary O’Keeffe, School of Public Health, Faculty of Medicine and Health, University of Sydney, Sydney, NSW 2050, Australia; mary.okeeffe{at}

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Back pain is saddled by misconceptions that contribute to low-value care and poor outcomes. Many patients and clinicians mistakenly view the spine as fragile, believe that pain equates to damage and overemphasise the role and value of rest, imaging, medication and surgery.1 Guideline-based care will not be embraced if such misconceptions are not countered. Here, we provide four arguments for accessible, engaging and convincing education to the public and health professionals.

Mass media campaigns can work

The ‘Back Pain: Don’t Take it Lying Down’ media campaign in Victoria, Australia, aired in the late 1990s and aimed to shift public attitudes about what to do when you experience back pain.2 Television (TV) advertisements were aired for the first 12 months and again for the final 3 months of the 3-year period. There were substantial improvements in workers’ compensation costs (15% reduction in the number of claims), as well as back pain beliefs, disability and medical management by the end of the campaign. Variants of this campaign have been repeated elsewhere, with observed improvements in pain beliefs.3 …

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  • Contributors All authors were involved in the conception or design of the editorial. MO’K drafted the paper. All authors contributed to all drafts of the paper and approved the final manuscript.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests KO’S serves in a voluntary capacity as Senior Associate Editor of BJSM.

  • Patient consent Not required.

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