Male doctors treat low back pain differently than female doctors do—and neither gender follows recommended guidelines for treating this common and costly health problem, according to data presented recently.
Shira Schechter Weiner, PhD, an associate professor in the Doctor of Physical Therapy Program at Touro College's School of Health Sciences and the lead author of the new study presented the data at Touro College of Pharmacy as part of the college's Research Day activities.
Weiner and her colleagues looked at whether gender influenced the type of treatment a clinician recommended. They surveyed 284 primary care doctors, randomly sampled from five leading New York City hospitals, on how they would treat a hypothetical case of acute low back pain.
Male physicians were 10 times more likely than female doctors to say they would refer the patient to an orthopedist, and 2.5 times as likely to refer to a psychiatrist, neither of which are recommended by evidence-based guidelines, according to her presentation.
Female doctors were more likely to recommend pain relief, including muscle relaxants and thermal treatments (both against guidelines), while they were also more likely to recommend manipulation to relieve pain. Women physicians were also more likely to recommend computed tomography scans for the patient, against guidelines.
“We need to all focus on preventing chronicity in these patients, and be committed to providing the best evidence-based care that has been shown to achieve that goal,” Weiner said in a press release about the study. “If we do the wrong thing the patient's more likely to become chronic, so we have to find ways to help clinicians do the right thing, because it's been shown to improve outcomes for patients.”
Male doctors treat low back pain differently than female doctors do – and neither gender follows recommended guidelines for treating this common and costly health problem, according to new findings presented at a poster session at Touro College Research Day.