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Med Clin North Am. 1999 May;83(3):643-62.

Low back pain. Evaluation and management in the primary care setting.

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University of Miami Comprehensive Pain and Rehabilitation Center, Florida, USA.


The primary care physician plays a major role in the identification of low back pain and the entry of the patient into the health care system. Acute low back pain remits within a short period of time in most patients, and major diagnostic studies are not required. If the pain persists beyond the treatment parameters of the primary care physician, consultation is necessary. A basic component of the initial evaluation is the identification of myofascial syndromes that mimic so-called root syndromes. Further, low back pain in the population at large is not usually a surgical problem, and the chances of there being significant pathology requiring surgical or other forms of intervention may be less than 1% of those affected. When the initial attempts at treatment fail, the patient should be referred to a multidisciplinary comprehensive pain center so as to avoid or limit chronicity, the earlier, the better. Practitioners should feel comfortable in asking the centers to which they make a referral for outcome data. If these are not available, the choice should be made elsewhere. Low back pain per se is in the majority not a neurologic problem, an orthopedic problem, or a neurosurgical problem, so that consultation with these groups, unless there are strong suspicions otherwise, has limited value. The criteria for selection and referral of patients to multidisciplinary pain centers have been presented, including specific considerations for the geriatric age group. The overwhelming cost of low back pain to the economy can be decreased along with suffering and the adverse impact that pain has on all social strata.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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