Ontario’s Low Back Pain Strategy
November 26, 2014
Ontario is moving forward with an expansion of its Low Back Pain Strategy to better serve patients and ensure health care dollars are allocated appropriately.
Thousands of people in Ontario suffer from low back pain. Acute low back pain is a common health problem affecting between 50 and 90 per cent of people over the course of their lifetime.
As part of Ontario’s commitment to improve access and availability of quality health care closer to home, our government is investing $2.3 million over two years in seven Local Health Integration Networks to help primary care organizations across Ontario improve low back pain services.
The Primary Care Low Back Pain Pilot program supports the integration of allied health providers such as chiropractors, physiotherapists, kinesiologist, occupational therapists and registered massage therapists. Working with existing primary care inter-disciplinary teams, they can deliver more patient-centred, appropriate low back pain care.
This initiative is one of two new models of care that will help ensure patients with low back pain receive the right care, at the right time, in the right place.
The second model, the Inter-professional Spine Assessment and Education Clinics Pilot, was launched in 2012 by the University Health Network in Toronto, Thunder Bay and Hamilton. It introduced rapid assessment and education centres for patients coping with non-acute low back pain.
Ontario’s three-pronged Low Back Pain Strategy also includes:
Evidence-based changes to imaging requirements
Findings from a number of research studies, clinical practice guidelines and expert panel recommendations show that diagnostic imaging tests such as X-rays, CT scans and MRIs are not useful in treating chronic low back pain, unless there are specific signs of a serious underlying injury or disease. According to Back Care Canada, about 90 per cent of back pain is benign – that is, not caused by a serious underlying injury or disease.
On April 1, 2012, the OHIP Schedule of Benefits for doctors was revised specifying that spine imaging tests should only be ordered when a serious issue like an infection or cancer is suspected. This change has reduced the number of unnecessary diagnostic tests and improved access for patients most in need of these services.
Educational tools to help providers and patients
Educating both primary care providers and patients is a key component of the Low Back Pain Strategy. Ontario has launched a number of clinical tools and resources to improve both provider and patient understanding of low back pain. These include an education program and online clinical tools for referring primary care providers and a patient video focussed on self-management techniques.