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Spine (Phila Pa 1976). 2000 Jan 15;25(2):251-8; discussion 258-9.

Coordination of primary health care for back pain. A randomized controlled trial.

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Montreal Department of Public Health, Quebec, Canada.



A randomized controlled trial comparing usual care with a program for the coordination of primary health care (CORE) for the treatment of subacute low-back pain patients.


To measure the effectiveness of the CORE program as a mean for implementing clinical practice guidelines for low-back pain in an urban community.


Clinical practice guidelines have been developed for primary care physicians and patients on the clinical management of low-back pain. The implementation of the guidelines in a large community is difficult with the multiplicity of medical and nonmedical back care providers and products. The CORE program was designed to make the guidelines fit in this complex environment.


One hundred ten workers compensated for low-back pain for 4 to 8 weeks in metropolitan Montreal were randomized in two groups: usual care (N = 56) and the CORE program (N = 54). Coordination of primary health care was performed by two primary care physicians and a nurse in liaison with the treating physicians, and included a complete examination, recommendations for the clinical management, and support to carry out the recommendations. All workers were followed for 6 months. Back pain and functional status were assessed at baseline, 3 months, and 6 months.


In the 6-month follow-up, the CORE group returned to work 6.6 days (standard error = 8.9) quicker than the control group, a difference that was not statistically significant. However, the CORE group showed a sustained improvement in pain and functional status with two-fold differences at the end of the 6 months of follow-up. This represented nine points on the Oswestry scale (P = 0.02) and 12 points on the Quebec Back Pain Disability Scale (P = 0.01). The CORE group also used three times less specialized imaging tests of the spine at 3 months (P < 0.01) and exercised twice as much at 6 months (P < 0.05) than the controls.


The therapeutic results for workers with low-back pain could be improved by implementing the clinical practice guidelines with primary care physicians in a large community, without delaying the return to work. The CORE intervention for back pain patients is highly relevant to primary care practice. It is simple in its application, flexible to accommodate physicians' and- patients' preferences in health care, and it is effective on patients' clinical outcome.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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