University of Oxford physios to launch back pain management programme

Physiotherapy researchers at the University of Oxford are launching an evidence-based programme that combines a cognitive behavioural approach with exercise to help people manage persistent low back pain.


Zara Hansen, senior physio and specialist cognitive behavioural therapist, discusses the relationship between pain and tissue damage in a BSTP group session

The Back Skills Training Programme (BSTP) requires minimal resources – merely a room, chairs and a flip chart or whiteboard – and can be delivered by a range of health professionals, including physios.

Patients start with an individual session, followed by six group sessions lasting 90 minutes. A patient workbook and an app are provided to use with the programme.

Online training to enable health professionals to deliver the BSTP will be available from January 2016. It will be free of charge to NHS clinicians for 12 months after its launch.

The project was developed by the Centre for Rehabilitation Research at the University of Oxford, with funding from the National Institute for Health Research.

Helen Richmond, physiotherapist and post-doctoral researcher at the centre, said: ‘The approach taken by this programme is particularly useful for patients. It enables them to learn from each other about strategies that have worked and it empowers them to take control of their own back pain.’

The extensive evidence base for the programme includes a randomised controlled trial conducted with more than 700 patients from 56 general practices in seven areas of England.

Trials of the programme showed a reduction in disability and pain at 12 months and beyond – up to three years later – and improvement in quality of life and satisfaction.

‘This is a fantastic opportunity for physiotherapists to receive training in an evidence-based treatment and provide better long-term outcomes for their patients,’ said Dr Richmond.

‘And we’ll be demonstrating the programme at Physiotherapy UK in Liverpool and would be delighted to speak to our fellow CSP members there,’ she said.

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