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Clinical audit suggestions: low back pain

Low back pain is a common disorder, affecting around one-third of the UK adult population each year. Around 20% of people with low back pain (that is one in 15 of the population) will consult their GP.


National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) [CG88] guidance for early management of non-specific low back pain.

This guidance is being revised and an updated version is due to be published in November 2016.

Audit criteria

Assessment of all patients with low back pain and radicular pain includes assessment of the risk of developing persistent disability:

  • severity of pain
  • the impact of the back pain
  • the risk of persistent disability.

Screening tool

STarT Back screening tool for assessment of risk of developing persistent disability. This tool enables healthcare professionals to provide patients with targeted treatment. Keele University runs a course to teach healthcare professionals how to use the screening tool.


Read codes for low back pain:

  • N140-1
  • N142 Low back pain
  • N142-1
  • N142-3
  • N142-4
  • N143 Sciatica
  • N143-1
  • N145 Backache unspecified
  • N145-1
  • N145-2
  • N1402
  • N1420 Pain in lumbar spine
  • S57z Back sprain NOS
  • S57z0 Pulled back muscle
  • 16C2 Backache
  • 16C3 Backache with radiation
  • 16C5 C/O low back pain
  • 16C6 Back pain no radiation
  • 16C8 Exacerbation of backache
  • 16C9 Chronic low back pain
  • 16CA
  • 16CZ Backache symptom
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