How our research is helping to treat low back pain in a personalised way

27 March 2024
Smiling nurse helping woman wearing pink jumper to raise arms

Our researchers at the Primary Care Centre have developed a tool that hopes to tackle a health issue that affects millions: low back pain.

Join us as we explore the impact of STarTBack, a screening tool for low back pain.

Discover the impact of our Primary Care Centre


How common is low back pain?

Woman holding spine prop

In the UK alone, a staggering 11 million people grapple with low back pain each year. It isn't something to dismiss or downplay — it's the leading cause of years lived with disability in the country.

Why is it difficult to treat low back pain?

Treating low back pain can be life changing. But there are lots of different treatments out there and what works for one person might not be right for another.

What is ‘personalised’ treatment?

You deserve to receive the best care, so you can live as full a life as possible – and one way we can do this is by making your care tailored to you.

This simply means making sure your care ‘matches’ your preferences, symptoms and values and involving you in decisions, every step of the way.

This is sometimes called ‘personalised’ care.

What is STarTBack? A screening tool for low back pain

To tackle this, Professor Elaine Hay and Dr Jonathan Hill developed a new screening tool called STarTBack.

This helps GPs and physiotherapists better understand if your low back pain will become chronic.Chronic pain is pain that lasts a long time (usually longer than 3 months).

By better understanding your pain, this tool could help your healthcare team find tailored treatments to meet your needs.


Download our Primary Care Centre report


How successful is STarTBack?

Logo for STartTBackUsing STarTBack has been shown to:

STarTBack has also been:

  • Translated into 27 languages and adopted by clinical organisations across Australia, Denmark, Canada and the USA.
  • Recommended in several national healthcare guidelines (NICE).
  • Presented as a case study by the UK Government to encourage wider use.
Download our Primary Care Centre report


Dr Jonathan Hill's story 

Smiling photo of Jonathan who has a beard and is wearing plaid shirt and suit jacket

"I joined Keele in 1999 and did my PhD to pilot and validate the STarTBack tool at the Centre,” said Dr Jonathan Hill.

"I then had a postdoctoral fellowship, funded by Versus Arthritis, to undertake a randomised clinical trial to test the effectiveness of the STarTBack approach.

"Versus Arthritis has underpinned much of the early part of my research career so I can now focus my time building capacity in others. I currently supervise nine fellowships."


Text which reads 'Primary Care Centre. Versus Arthritis'