Barriers to following imaging guidelines for the treatment and management of patients with low-back pain in primary care: a qualitative assessment guided by the Theoretical Domains Framework

Pike, Andrea and Patey, Andrea M. and Lawrence, Rebecca and Aubrey-Bassler, F. Kris and Grimshaw, Jeremy and Mortazhejri, Sameh and Jasaui, Yamile and Dowling, Shawn and Hall, Amanda (2022) Barriers to following imaging guidelines for the treatment and management of patients with low-back pain in primary care: a qualitative assessment guided by the Theoretical Domains Framework. BMC Primary Care, 23. ISSN 2731-4553

[img] [English] PDF - Published Version
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial.

Download (967kB)


Background Low back pain (LBP) is a leading cause of disability and is among the top five reasons that patients visit their family doctors. Over-imaging for non-specific low back pain remains a problem in primary care. To inform a larger study to develop and evaluate a theory-based intervention to reduce inappropriate imaging, we completed an assessment of the barriers and facilitators to reducing unnecessary imaging for NSLBP among family doctors in Newfoundland and Labrador (NL). Methods This was an exploratory, qualitative study describing family doctors’ experiences and practices related to diagnostic imaging for non-specific LBP in NL, guided by the Theoretical Domains Framework (TDF). Data were collected using in-depth, semi-structured interviews. Transcripts were analyzed deductively (assigning text to one or more domains) and inductively (generating themes at each of the domains) before the results were examined to determine which domains should be targeted to reduce imaging. Results Nine family doctors (four males; five females) working in community (n = 4) and academic (n = 5) clinics in both rural (n = 6) and urban (n = 3) settings participated in this study. We found five barriers to reducing imaging for patients with NSLBP: 1) negative consequences, 2) patient demand 3) health system organization, 4) time, and 5) access to resources. These were related to the following domains: 1) beliefs about consequences, 2) beliefs about capabilities, 3) emotion, 4) reinforcement, 5) environmental context and resources, 6) social influences, and 7) behavioural regulation. Conclusions Family physicians a) fear that if they do not image they may miss something serious, b) face significant patient demand for imaging, c) are working in a system that encourages unnecessary imaging, d) don’t have enough time to counsel patients about why they don’t need imaging, and e) lack access to appropriate practitioners, community programs, and treatment modalities to prescribe to their patients. These barriers were related to seven TDF domains. Successfully reducing inappropriate imaging requires a comprehensive intervention that addresses these barriers using established behaviour change techniques. These techniques should be matched directly to relevant TDF domains. The results of our study represent the important first step of this process – identifying the contextual barriers and the domains to which they are related.

Item Type: Article
Item ID: 15570
Additional Information: Memorial University Open Access Author's Fund
Keywords: Low back pain, Clinical practice guidelines Imaging, De-implementation, Low-value care x-ray, CT, Evidence-based medicine, Theoretical domains framework. TDF
Department(s): Medicine, Faculty of
Date: 3 June 2022
Date Type: Publication
Geographic Location: Newfoundland and Labrador
Digital Object Identifier (DOI):
Related URLs:

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item


Downloads per month over the past year

View more statistics