Open Access Open Badges Research article

Do community pharmacists have the attitudes and knowledge to support evidence based self-management of low back pain?

Jonathan Silcock1*, Jennifer Klaber Moffett2, Hilary Edmondson3, Gordon Waddell4 and A Kim Burton5

Author Affiliations

1 School of Healthcare, University of Leeds, PO Box 214, Leeds, LS2 9UT, UK

2 Institute of Rehabilitation, University of Hull, 215 Anlaby Road, Hull, HU3 2PG, UK

3 Hull and East Riding Pharmacy Research Network, Room SC48 Trust Headquarters, Willerby Hill, Willerby, HU10 6ED, UK

4 UnumProvident Centre for Psychosocial and Disability Research, 51a Park Place, Cardiff University, Cardiff, CF10 3AT, UK

5 Spinal Research Unit, University of Huddersfield, 30 Queen Street, Huddersfield, West Yorks, HD1 2SP, UK

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BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders 2007, 8:10  doi:10.1186/1471-2474-8-10

Published: 31 January 2007



In many countries, community pharmacists can be consulted without appointment in a large number of convenient locations. They are in an ideal position to give advice to patients at the onset of low back pain and also reinforce advice given by other healthcare professionals. There is little specific information about the quality of care provided in the pharmacy for people with back pain. The main objectives of this survey were to determine the attitudes, knowledge and reported practice of English pharmacists advising people who present with acute or chronic low back pain.


A questionnaire was designed for anonymous self-completion by pharmacists attending continuing education sessions. Demographic questions were designed to allow comparison with a national pharmacy workforce survey. Attitudes were measured with the Back Beliefs Questionnaire (BBQ) and questions based on the Working Backs Scotland campaign. Questions about the treatment of back pain in the community pharmacy were written (or adapted) to reflect and characterise the nature of practice. In response to two clinical vignettes, respondents were asked to select proposals that they would recommend in practice.


335 responses from community pharmacists were analysed. Middle aged pharmacists, women, pharmacy managers and locums were over-represented compared to registration and workforce data. The mean (SD) BBQ score for the pharmacists was 31.37 (5.75), which was slightly more positive than in similar surveys of other groups. Those who had suffered from back pain seem to demonstrate more confidence (fewer negative feelings, more advice opportunities and better advice provision) in their perception of advice given in the pharmacy. Awareness of written information that could help to support practice was low. Reponses to the clinical vignettes were generally in line with the evidence base. Pharmacists expressed some caution about recommending activity. Most respondents said they would benefit from more education about back pain.


Those sampled generally expressed positive attitudes about back pain and were able to offer evidence based advice. Pharmacists may benefit from training to increase their ability and confidence to offer support for self-care in back pain. Further research would be useful to clarify the representativeness of the sample.