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1.  Musculoskeletal conditions in children and adolescents managed in Australian primary care 
Primary care settings play a vital role in the early detection and appropriate management of musculoskeletal conditions in paediatric populations. However, little data exist regarding these conditions in a primary care context or on the presentation of specific musculoskeletal disorders in children. The aim of this study was to estimate the caseload and describe typical management of musculoskeletal conditions in children and adolescents presenting to primary care in Australia.
An analysis of data from the Bettering the Evaluation and Care of Health (BEACH) study was performed. The BEACH study is a continuous national study of general practice (GP) activity in Australia. We identified all GP encounters with children and adolescents over the past five years and extracted data on demographic details, the problems managed, and GP management of each problem. SAS statistical software was used to calculate robust proportions and after adjustment for the cluster, the 95% confidence intervals (CIs).
From the period April 2006 to March 2011, there were 65,279 encounters with children and adolescents in the BEACH database. Of the 77,830 problems managed at these encounters, 4.9% (95%CI 4.7% to 5.1%) were musculoskeletal problems. The rate of musculoskeletal problems managed increased significantly with age, however there was a significant decrease for girls aged 15–17 years. Upper and lower limb conditions were the most common, followed by spine and trunk conditions. Spine and trunk conditions were significantly more likely to be managed with medication, but less likely to receive imaging, than upper or lower limb problems.
Musculoskeletal problems in children and adolescents present a significant burden and an important challenge to the primary health care system in Australia. There is variability in rates of presentation between different age groups, gender and affected body region.
PMCID: PMC4032455  PMID: 24885231
Musculoskeletal complaints; Primary care; Child; Adolescence
2.  A randomized controlled trial of tai chi for long-term low back pain (TAI CHI): Study rationale, design, and methods 
Low back pain persisting for longer than 3 months is a common and costly condition for which many current treatments have low-moderate success rates at best. Exercise is among the more successful treatments for this condition, however, the type and dosage of exercise that elicits the best results is not clearly defined. Tai chi is a gentle form of low intensity exercise that uses controlled movements in combination with relaxation techniques and is currently used as a safe form of exercise for people suffering from other chronic pain conditions such as arthritis. To date, there has been no scientific evaluation of tai chi as an intervention for people with back pain. Thus the aim of this study will be to examine the effects of a tai chi exercise program on pain and disability in people with long-term low back pain.
Methods and design
The study will recruit 160 healthy individuals from the community setting to be randomised to either a tai chi intervention group or a wait-list control group. Individuals in the tai chi group will attend 2 tai chi sessions (40 minutes)/week for 8 weeks followed by 1 tai chi session/week for 2 weeks. The wait-list control will continue their usual health care practices and have the opportunity to participate in the tai chi program once they have completed the follow-up assessments. The primary outcome will be bothersomeness of back symptoms measured with a 0–10 numerical rating scale. Secondary outcomes include, self-reports of pain-related disability, health-related quality of life and global perceived effect of treatment. Statistical analysis of primary and secondary outcomes will be based on the intention to treat principle. Linear mixed models will be used to test for the effect of treatment on outcome at 10 weeks follow up. This trial has received ethics approval from The University of Sydney Human Research Ethics Committee. HREC Approval No.10452
This study will be the first trial in this area and the information on its effectiveness will allow patients, clinicians and treatment funders to make informed choices regarding this treatment.
Trial Registration
This trial has been registered with Australian New Zealand Clinical Trials Registry. ACTRN12608000270314
PMCID: PMC2702312  PMID: 19473546
3.  The effect of motor control exercise versus placebo in patients with chronic low back pain [ACTRN012605000262606] 
While one in ten Australians suffer from chronic low back pain this condition remains extremely difficult to treat. Many contemporary treatments are of unknown value. One potentially useful therapy is the use of motor control exercise. This therapy has a biologically plausible effect, is readily available in primary care and it is of modest cost. However, to date, the efficacy of motor control exercise has not been established.
This paper describes the protocol for a clinical trial comparing the effects of motor control exercise versus placebo in the treatment of chronic non-specific low back pain. One hundred and fifty-four participants will be randomly allocated to receive an 8-week program of motor control exercise or placebo (detuned short wave and detuned ultrasound). Measures of outcomes will be obtained at follow-up appointments at 2, 6 and 12 months after randomisation. The primary outcomes are: pain, global perceived effect and patient-generated measure of disability at 2 months and recurrence at 12 months.
This trial will be the first placebo-controlled trial of motor control exercise. The results will inform best practice for treating chronic low back pain and prevent its occurrence.
PMCID: PMC1291370  PMID: 16271149
4.  Triggers for an episode of sudden onset low back pain: study protocol 
Most research on risk factors for low back pain has focused on long term exposures rather than factors immediately preceding the onset of low back pain. The aim of this study is to quantify the transient increase in risk of a sudden episode of low back pain associated with acute exposure to a range of common physical and psychological factors.
This study uses a case-crossover design. One thousand adults with a sudden onset of low back pain presenting to primary care clinicians will be recruited. Basic demographic and clinical information including exposure to putative triggers will be collected using a questionnaire. These triggers include exposure to hazardous manual tasks, physical activity, a slip/trip or fall, consumption of alcohol, sexual activity, being distracted, and being fatigued or tired. Exposures in the case window (0-2 hours from the time when participants first notice their back pain) will be compared to exposures in two control time-windows (one 24-26 hours and another 48-50 hours before the case window).
The completion of this study will provide the first-research based estimates of the increase in risk of a sudden episode of acute low back pain associated with transient exposure to a range of common factors thought to trigger low back pain.
PMCID: PMC3292970  PMID: 22273001
5.  PACE - The first placebo controlled trial of paracetamol for acute low back pain: design of a randomised controlled trial 
Clinical practice guidelines recommend that the initial treatment of acute low back pain (LBP) should consist of advice to stay active and regular simple analgesics such as paracetamol 4 g daily. Despite this recommendation in all international LBP guidelines there are no placebo controlled trials assessing the efficacy of paracetamol for LBP at any dose or dose regimen. This study aims to determine whether 4 g of paracetamol daily (in divided doses) results in a more rapid recovery from acute LBP than placebo. A secondary aim is to determine if ingesting paracetamol in a time-contingent manner is more effective than paracetamol taken when required (PRN) for recovery from acute LBP.
The study is a randomised double dummy placebo controlled trial. 1650 care seeking people with significant acute LBP will be recruited. All participants will receive advice to stay active and will be randomised to 1 of 3 treatment groups: time-contingent paracetamol dose regimen (plus placebo PRN paracetamol), PRN paracetamol (plus placebo time-contingent paracetamol) or a double placebo study arm. The primary outcome will be time (days) to recovery from pain recorded in a daily pain diary. Other outcomes will be pain intensity, disability, function, global perceived effect and sleep quality, captured at baseline and at weeks 1, 2, 4 and 12 by an assessor blind to treatment allocation. An economic analysis will be conducted to determine the cost-effectiveness of treatment from the health sector and societal perspectives.
The successful completion of the trial will provide the first high quality evidence on the effectiveness of the use of paracetamol, a guideline endorsed treatment for acute LBP.
Trail registration
PMCID: PMC2918542  PMID: 20650012
6.  A randomised clinical trial of a comprehensive exercise program for chronic whiplash: trial protocol 
Whiplash is the most common injury following a motor vehicle accident. Approximately 60% of people suffer persistent pain and disability six months post injury. Two forms of exercise; specific motor relearning exercises and graded activity, have been found to be effective treatments for this condition. Although the effect sizes for these exercise programs, individually, are modest, pilot data suggest much larger effects on pain and disability are achieved when these two treatments are combined. The aim of this study is to investigate the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of this comprehensive exercise approach for chronic whiplash.
A multicentre randomised controlled trial will be conducted. One hundred and seventy-six participants with chronic grade I to II whiplash will be recruited in Sydney and Brisbane, Australia. All participants will receive an educational booklet on whiplash and in addition, those randomised to the comprehensive exercise group (specific motor relearning and graded activity exercises) will receive 20 progressive and individually-tailored, 1 hour exercise sessions over a 12 week period (specific motor relearning exercises: 8 sessions over 4 weeks; graded activity: 12 sessions over 8 weeks). The primary outcome to be assessed is pain intensity. Other outcomes of interest include disability, health-related quality of life and health service utilisation. Outcomes will be measured at baseline, 14 weeks, 6 months and 12 months by an assessor who is blinded to the group allocation of the subjects. Recruitment is due to commence in late 2009.
The successful completion of this trial will provide evidence on the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of a simple treatment for the management of chronic whiplash.
Trial registration
PMCID: PMC2799382  PMID: 19954546
7.  Motor control or graded activity exercises for chronic low back pain? A randomised controlled trial 
Chronic low back pain remains a major health problem in Australia and around the world. Unfortunately the majority of treatments for this condition produce small effects because not all patients respond to each treatment. It appears that only 25–50% of patients respond to exercise. The two most popular types of exercise for low back pain are graded activity and motor control exercises. At present however, there are no guidelines to help clinicians select the best treatment for a patient. As a result, time and money are wasted on treatments which ultimately fail to help the patient.
This paper describes the protocol of a randomised clinical trial comparing the effects of motor control exercises with a graded activity program in the treatment of chronic non specific low back pain. Further analysis will identify clinical features that may predict a patient's response to each treatment. One hundred and seventy two participants will be randomly allocated to receive either a program of motor control exercises or graded activity. Measures of outcome will be obtained at 2, 6 and 12 months after randomisation. The primary outcomes are: pain (average pain intensity over the last week) and function (patient-specific functional scale) at 2 and 6 months. Potential treatment effect modifiers will be measured at baseline.
This trial will not only evaluate which exercise approach is more effective in general for patients will chronic low back pain, but will also determine which exercise approach is best for an individual patient.
Trial registration number
PMCID: PMC2409320  PMID: 18454877
8.  Efficacy of manipulation for non-specific neck pain of recent onset: design of a randomised controlled trial 
Manipulation is a common treatment for non-specific neck pain. Neck manipulation, unlike gentler forms of manual therapy such as mobilisation, is associated with a small risk of serious neurovascular injury and can result in stroke or death. It is thought however, that neck manipulation provides better results than mobilisation where clinically indicated. There is long standing and vigorous debate both within and between the professions that use neck manipulation as well as the wider scientific community as to whether neck manipulation potentially does more harm than good. The primary aim of this study is to determine whether neck manipulation provides more rapid resolution of an episode of neck pain than mobilisation.
182 participants with acute and sub-acute neck pain will be recruited from physiotherapy, chiropractic and osteopathy practices in Sydney, Australia. Participants will be randomly allocated to treatment with either manipulation or mobilisation. Randomisation will occur after the treating practitioner decides that manipulation is an appropriate treatment for the individual participant. Both groups will receive at least 4 treatments over 2 weeks. The primary outcome is number of days taken to recover from the episode of neck pain. Cox regression will be used to compare survival curves for time to recovery for the manipulation and mobilisation treatment groups.
This paper presents the rationale and design of a randomised controlled trial to compare the effectiveness of neck manipulation and neck mobilisation for acute and subacute neck pain.
PMCID: PMC1810535  PMID: 17324291
9.  Manipulative therapy and/or NSAIDs for acute low back pain: design of a randomized controlled trial [ACTRN012605000036617] 
Acute low back pain is a common condition resulting in pain and disability. Current national and international guidelines advocate general practitioner care including advice and paracetamol (4 g daily in otherwise well adults) as the first line of care for people with acute low back pain. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and spinal manipulative therapy (SMT) are advocated in many guidelines as second line management options for patients with acute low back pain who are not recovering. No studies have explored the role of NSAIDs and/or SMT in addition to first line management for acute low back pain. The primary aim of this study is to investigate if NSAIDs and/or SMT in addition to general practitioner advice and paracetamol results in shorter recovery times for patients with acute low back pain. The secondary aims of the study are to evaluate whether the addition of SMT and/or NSAIDs influences pain, disability and global perceived effect at 1, 2, 4 and 12 weeks after onset of therapy for patients with significant acute low back pain.
This paper presents the rationale and design of a randomised controlled trial examining the addition of NSAIDs and/or SMT in 240 people who present to their general practitioner with significant acute low back pain.
PMCID: PMC1298305  PMID: 16280089

Results 1-9 (9)