Choosing Wisely Canada

Got Back Pain? How Do You Know if You Need That Test?

Choosing Wisely Canada can help you, and the health care professionals you work with, make that decision.

Choosing Wisely Canada started in April, 2014, and consists of a small team from the University of Toronto, Canadian Medical Association and St. Michael’s Hospital (Toronto). It’s part of an international campaign that includes 20 countries working to reduce unnecessary tests and treatments in health care.

Head to the Choosing Wisely Canada website – – and from there you can search either by using terms that describe your condition, like back pain or osteoarthritis, or you can choose a specialty topic.

Maybe you’re considering having spine surgery. If so, check out the Spine section on the website and you’ll see information for both yourself and your surgeon to review that can guide decisions on if getting an x-ray or MRI would help in your situation.

There are also patient pamphlets that are summaries of the information that you can download for yourself or your healthcare team so everyone can be on the same page about your recovery plan.

Ultimately, following the best evidence for reducing unnecessary or ineffective tests will save money, and redirect focus toward treatments with benefit for recovery.

How Can Physiotherapy Help?

Tricia is knowledgable about musculoskeletal pain and rehabilitation, and can provide hands-on treatment combined with movement and exercise as part of your recovery plan.

The recommendations for treating back pain from Choose Wisely Canada are reflective the best practices and guidelines available, including when to get treatment. Tricia can give you information on how these recommendations came about, and reassure you about why your doctor didn’t recommend a scan or didn’t prescribe medication. More importantly, she can help give you options for treatment that will put control and recovery back in your hands.

Example advice from a Patient Pamphlet on treating back pain:

“Manage back pain with regular exercise and professional help as required

If you have an attack of lower-back pain that is severe, continuous and not improving, assessment and treatment by a health care professional who focuses on the back or other musculoskeletal problems may help. These practitioners may use both active and passive techniques to help you feel better. Examples of passive techniques that may be used to get you moving include:

  • Heat or ice
  • Ultrasound
  • Manipulation (massage and movement)

An active approach, like walking or water aerobics is usually the most effective. Exercise is often the best way to relieve lower-back pain.

Check with your health care provider before starting an exercise program.

Work with an expert. It may help to work with a health professional (such as a physiotherapist) who can explain which activities are right for you.”