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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. 1School of Public Health, Faculty of Medicine and Health, University of Sydney, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
  2. 2Institute for Musculoskeletal Health, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
  3. 3School of Health Sciences & PainAdelaide Consortium, The University of South Australia, Adelaide, South Australia, Australia
  4. 4Neuroscience Research Australia, Randwick, New South Wales, Australia
  5. 5Health Economics Research Group, Department of Clinical Sciences, Institute of Environment, Health and Societies, Brunel University London, Uxbridge, UK
  6. 6Department of Marketing, Griffith Business School, Griffith University, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia
  7. 7Department of Physical Therapy, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
  8. 8Sports Spine Centre, Aspetar Orthopaedic and Sports Medicine Hospital, Doha, Qatar
  9. 9School 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}sydney.edu.au

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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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