Outcomes tracking provides a systematic method of monitoring treatment effectiveness and efficiency. A familiarity with outcome measures for the patient with low back pain is very important for clinicians working in orthopaedic settings, where patients with lumbar pain are prevalent. The clinician must be able to evaluate and choose appropriate measurement tools, and understand the clinical meaning of measurements to successfully employ these instruments. The purposes of this article are to review measurement instruments and to offer practical guidelines for selection and use of outcome measures for this population. The reliability, validity, sensitivity to change, and utility of common outcome measures are discussed. An overview of generic, disease-specific, and patient-specific tools is provided, with specific commentary on the use of the SF-36, SF-12, Oswestry, Roland Morris, and patient-specific tools. Practical guidelines for utilizing outcome measures in clinical practice and the overall benefits of outcomes tracking are highlighted.
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