A systematic review of low back pain and sciatica patients' expectations and experiences of health care

Kevork Hopayian, Caitlin Notley

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

45 Citations (Scopus)


Background context Previous systematic reviews of patients' experience of health services have used mixed qualitative and quantitative studies. This review focused on qualitative studies, which are more suitable for capturing experience, using modern methods of synthesis of qualitative studies. Purpose To describe the experience of health care of low back pain and sciatica patients and the sources of satisfaction or dissatisfaction with special reference to patients who do not receive a diagnosis. Study design A systematic review of qualitative studies. Sample Primary qualitative studies identified from Medline, Embase, CINAHL, and Psychinfo databases. Outcome measures Conceptual themes of patients' experiences. Method Data collection and analysis were through thematic content analysis. Two reviewers independently screened titles and collected and analyzed data. The authors were in receipt of a Primary Care Research Bursary from National Health Service Suffolk and Norfolk Research Departments, a not-for-profit organization. Results Twenty-eight articles met the inclusion criteria. Most studies were of high quality. Nine themes emerged: the process and content of care, relationships and interpersonal skills, personalized care, information, the outcome of care, the importance of a diagnosis, delegitimation, recognizing the expert, and service matters. How care was given mattered greatly to patients, with importance given to receiving a perceived full assessment, consideration for the individual's context, good relationships, empathy, and the sharing of information. These aspects of care facilitated the acceptance by some of the limitations of health care and were spread across disciplines. Not having a diagnosis made coping more difficult for some but for others led to delegitimation, a feeling of not being believed. Service matters such as cost and waiting time received little mention. Conclusions Although much research into the development of chronic low back pain (LBP) has focused on the patient, this review suggests that research into aspects of care also warrant research. The benefits of generic principles of care, such as personalization and communication, are important to patients with LBP and sciatica; so, practitioners may help their patients by paying as much attention to them as to specific interventions. When neither cure nor a diagnostic label is forthcoming, generic skills remain important for patient satisfaction.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1769-1780
Number of pages12
JournalSpine Journal
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2014


  • Back pain
  • Communication
  • Delegitimation
  • Diagnosis
  • Experience
  • Personalized care
  • Satisfaction
  • Sciatica

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