Policy reform puts lower back pain sufferers on the fast track to recovery

7 February 2024

Australians are set to gain faster relief and recovery from lower back pain after a landmark decision to allow more allied health professionals to treat the debilitating condition.

In a significant win for Accredited Exercise Physiologists (AEPs), osteopaths and chiropractors, the NSW State Insurance Regulatory Authority (SIRA) and the NSW Agency for Clinical Innovation (ACI) have endorsed a new model for low back pain management.

The Summary Model of care for low back pain has adopted the term ‘physical therapies’, focusing on best-practice recommendations with the aim of enhancing health, quality of life, and social outcomes for people grappling with low back pain.

ESSA Policy & Advocacy Manager Judy Powell hailed the decision as a major policy win.

“This is a significant victory for people with low back pain, increasing choice for consumers and access to care from a broader range of allied health professionals,” said Ms Powell.

“The endorsement is expected to streamline healthcare delivery, enabling more referrals and ensuring timely access to the right care, from allied health professionals that deliver physical therapies such as Accredited Exercise Physiologists, osteopaths and chiropractors.

“A weight has been lifted for low back suffers who will now receive value-based healthcare through the early assessment, management, review, and appropriate referral of people with back injuries in the NSW personal injury schemes.

“It will also encourage self-management, allow people to return to work and usual activity and empower people in their recovery journey.”

Collaboratively with Osteopathy Australia, Chiropractic Australia and other stakeholders, ESSA relied on strong scientific evidence to advocate for the term 'physical therapies' over only 'physiotherapy' to expand access.

“By developing and implementing the Summary Model in the NSW personal injury schemes, people experiencing low back pain will have more timely independent assessment to assist in better health and recovery outcomes,” said Antony Nicholas, Chief Executive of Osteopathy Australia.

“People with low back pain will now have greater access to services that accelerate their injury recovery journey, and reduce time spent in health care schemes.”

SIRA, in partnership with (ACI), coordinated the revision of the Acute Low Back Pain Model of Care to align with NSW personal injury schemes, fostering consistency between public hospitals and primary/community care settings.

The Summary Model provides the latest evidence-based guidance to general practice on the care pathway for managing low back pain.

It also promotes uniformity and best practices in caring for those with low back pain, aiming to reduce the use of health services with little or no value.

The Model of Care will:

  • retain the term 'physical therapies'
  • retain the term 'allied health professionals’
  • update the explanation for 'physical therapies’ in the glossary

AEPs are university qualified allied health professionals equipped with the knowledge, skills and competencies to design, deliver and evaluate safe and effective exercise interventions for people with chronic medical conditions, injuries or disabilities.