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Abstract

Background

Evidence points to clinicians' beliefs and practice behaviours related to low back pain (LBP), which are discordant with contemporary evidence. While interventions to align beliefs and behaviours with evidence among clinicians have demonstrated effectiveness, a more sustainable and cost-effective approach to positively developing workforce capacity in this area may be to target the emerging workforce. The aim of this study was to investigate beliefs and clinical recommendations for LBP, and their alignment to evidence, in Australian university allied health and medical students.

Methods

Final-year students in chiropractic, medicine, occupational therapy, pharmacy and physiotherapy disciplines in three Western Australian universities responded to a survey. Demographic data, LBP-related beliefs data [modified Health Care Providers Pain and Impact Relationship Scale (HC-PAIRS) and the Back Pain Beliefs Questionnaire (BBQ) ] and activity, rest and work clinical recommendations for an acute LBP clinical vignette were collected.

Results

Six hundred two students completed the survey (response rate 74.6%). Cross-discipline differences in beliefs and clinical recommendations were observed (p > 0.001). Physiotherapy and chiropractic students reported significantly more helpful beliefs compared with the other disciplines, while pharmacy students reported the least helpful beliefs. A greater proportion of chiropractic and physiotherapy students reported guideline-consistent recommendations compared with other disciplines. HC-PAIRS and BBQ scores were strongly associated with clinical recommendations, independent to the discipline of study and prior experience of LBP.

Conclusions

Aligning cross-discipline university curricula with current evidence may provide an opportunity to facilitate translation of this evidence into practice with a focus on a consistent, cross-discipline approach to LBP management.