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Utilisation of pain counselling in osteopathic practice: secondary analysis of a nationally representative sample of Australian osteopaths


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Osteopathic Manipulative Treatment

Scand J Pain. 2020 Oct 28;21(2):330-338.


Kylie Fitzgerald, Brett Vaughan, Michael Fleischmann, Shane Pritchard, Jane Mulcahy, Phil Austin


Objectives: Advice, reassurance and education are recommended as first line treatments for musculoskeletal pain conditions such as low back pain. Osteopaths are registered primary contact allied health professionals in the Australian healthcare system who primarily manage acute and chronic musculoskeletal pain conditions. This study aimed to investigate the proportion of Australian osteopaths who do and do not utilise advice, reassurance and education (pain counselling) in their clinical practice, and determine the characteristics associated with the frequency of using pain counselling in clinical practice.

Methods: A secondary analysis of practice characteristics from a nationally representative sample of Australian osteopaths was undertaken. Participants completed a 27-item practice characteristics questionnaire between July-December 2016. Bivariate analyses were used to identify significant variables for inclusion in a backward multiple logistic regression model. Adjusted odds ratios (OR) were calculated for significant variables.

Results: Responses were received from 991 Australian osteopaths, representing 49% of the profession. Of these 264 (26.64%) indicated often utilising pain counselling, and 727 (73.36%) reported not often utilising pain counselling. Those who utilised pain counselling were more than twice as likely to report research evidence had a high impact on their clinical practice (OR 2.11), and nearly twice as likely to discuss physical activity with their patients (OR 1.84).

Conclusions: Pain counselling is under-utilised by nearly three quarters of the Australian osteopathic profession as a management strategy. Future studies are required to explore the reasons why most in the profession comprised in this sample are infrequently utilising this guideline recommendation. Given the frequency of chronic musculoskeletal pain conditions presenting to Australian osteopaths, strategies appear to be needed to advance the profession via professional development in accessing and using evidence-based care for pain conditions.

Publication Date: 

2020 Oct



Fitzgerald, K., Vaughan, B., Fleischmann, M., Pritchard, S., Mulcahy, J., Austin, P. (2020) 'Utilisation of pain counselling in osteopathic practice: secondary analysis of a nationally representative sample of Australian osteopaths ', Scand J Pain. 2020 Oct 28;21(2):330-338.

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