A Clinical Contrast: Physical Therapists with Low Back Pain Treating Patients with Low Back Pain

Adriaan Louw
Emilio J. Puentedura, University of Nevada, Las Vegas


Patients with low back pain (LBP) often display faulty beliefs and cognitions regarding their pain experience. Pain neuroscience education (PNE) aims to alter the pain experience by targeting these faulty beliefs and cognitions. One PNE strategy aims specifically to reframe commonly held beliefs about tissues by patients with LBP as the single source of pain. In line with this reasoning, it is hypothesized that physical therapists (PT) treating patients with LBP may indeed experience similar, if not worse, pain experiences while treating a patient with LBP. To date, this assumption has never been studied. A PT LBP questionnaire was developed, validated and distributed to a convenience sample of attendees of an international PT conference. One-hundred and ten PTs completed the questionnaire for a 71% response rate. Ninety percent of the PTs reported having experienced LBP, with 27% at the conference experiencing LBP at the time. Of the PTs that have experienced LBP 75% reported not having received any imaging; 81% no formal diagnoses, 58% no treatment and 86% not having missed work due to LBP. Eighty-six percent of therapists reported having experienced LBP while treating a patient with LBP, with 50% convinced their LBP was higher than the LBP experienced by the patient they were treating. The results from this study indicate PTs often treat patients with LBP while suffering LBP. It is suggested that this knowledge may potentially help patients with LBP reconceptualize their LBP experience leading to expedited recovery.