Intended for healthcare professionals

Research Article

Clinical trial of common treatments for low back pain in family practice.

Br Med J (Clin Res Ed) 1985; 291 doi: (Published 21 September 1985) Cite this as: Br Med J (Clin Res Ed) 1985;291:791
  1. J R Gilbert,
  2. D W Taylor,
  3. A Hildebrand,
  4. C Evans


    The results of a multicentered randomised clinical trial are reported of bed rest and of a physiotherapy and education programme for patients who presented in family practice with an acute episode of low back pain. No beneficial effect of either treatment was observed on several clinical outcome measures, including straight leg raising, lumbar flexion, activities of daily living, and pain. In fact the results favoured early mobilisation over bed rest and suggested that the physiotherapy and education programme was doing more harm than good. Moreover, additional analyses, which focused on clinically interesting patient subgroups, discovered no subset of patients who benefited from either of the treatments under study. Having failed to identify any clinically important benefits, or other explanations for these negative results, we can only conclude that family doctors have little reason to prescribe either bed rest or isometric exercises to patients who suffer from low back pain.