STarT Back – getting the right treatment to people with back pain.


 The majority of people who have a bout of back pain will improve over time whatever treatment they receive. Some people are far less fortunate and their back pain doesn’t get better in the same way. We know that is not always easy for health professionals to recognize who will do well and who would benefit from extra care. This leads to some people being referred for treatment that they don’t really need and some people who don’t get the treatment they require.


Using 9 questions, a clinician can allocate a patient into a group of low, medium or high risk of developing chronic pain to enable them to get the most appropriate treatment matched to their condition. Patients in the low risk group get good quality, helpful information, which has been designed especially for patients by patients and clinicians, and support from their GP to manage their back pain until they feel better. Medium risk patients get physiotherapy and high risk patients get physiotherapy with additional emotional wellbeing support.

This tool will help you to get the treatment that you really need and that will help you the most, depending on which category you fall into – low, medium or high.

Below you can see the questions that a clinician would ask you as part of STarTBack assessment.

Please note that the Tool is NOT designed to be used as a standalone online screening Tool and only forms a part of the full clinical assessment. 

You will be given a patient information leaflet to help you to understand more about your condition. This leaflet has been put together by patients, clinicians and academics in the Impact Accelerator Unit at Keele University. It contains the answers to the most frequently asked questions around back pain as well as real life patient accounts, so you can learn from others who have been through a similar experience.

So what is the STarT Back Approach?

The STarT Back study was funded by Arthritis Research UK and undertaken by Primary Care Sciences at Keele University in the UK. This used a new approach to the problem and has two equally important parts. The first is to use a tool which has 9 questions that help a health professional make a more systematic assessment of who to refer for extra care. The second is to have different treatment packages that are tailored to the individual needs of the person with back pain.

STarTBack leaflet