BACKGROUND: Acute low back pain is the fifth most common reason for physician visits. Multiple treatment options are available, but not all physicians and patients are satisfied with the results. This study evaluated treatment outcomes from patients' perspectives using standardized measures. METHODS: 368 patients with acute low back pain were enrolled in the study. Only 128 participants (35%) completed all 4 health outcome questionnaires (administered at baseline, 6 weeks, 3 months, and 1 year). RESULTS: Most participants reported improved health at 1-year follow-up,, with the most significant gains achieved by 3 months. However, 40% were not satisfied with their outcome. Patients with radicular low back pain scored lower on health outcome measures than patients without radicular symptoms. CONCLUSION: A sizeable percentage of patients with acute low back pain progress to chronic pain despite therapeutic intervention. Patients with radiculopathy may require nonstandard treatment to avoid unfavorable outcomes.
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