Media Contacts

Julie Kiefer

Manager, Science Communications, University of Utah Health
Phone: 801-587-1293

May 04, 2018 9:30 AM

Julie Fritz, PT, Ph.D.

Clinicians treating low back pain have options when it comes to choosing strategies to help their patients gain relief. But which treatments — namely, physical therapy versus cognitive behavior therapy and mindfulness — work best for each individual? A new University of Utah Health study led by Julie Fritz, PT, Ph.D., will seek to answer that question thanks to a $9.7 million grant from Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI).

“There’s a lot of research on individual treatments for back pain, and several treatments seem to show at least some degree of benefit but there’s no magic bullet that works great for everyone all the time,” Fritz said. “Clinicians have an intuitive sense that some people respond to certain types of treatments whereas others respond better to different types of treatments. But we don’t have a lot of good data to show how clinicians can make better decisions to really target a treatment to a patient that’s most likely to benefit that individual.”

Over the next five years, Fritz’ team of physical therapists, primary care providers who treat chronic pain, experts in cognitive behavioral therapy and mindfulness, biostatisticians, and study designers will examine which approaches benefit which patients the most in an effort to uncover guidelines to aid clinicians. The group will follow the treatments and results of 500 patients.

“We’re really excited to get going,” Fritz said. “It’s going to be a lot of work but we’ve got the right team in place, and we think there are some really important questions that hopefully we can answer.”

Said David Perrin, Ph.D., dean of the University of Utah College of Health, “Dr. Fritz has developed a research paradigm that is changing the manner by which the major health challenge of back pain is managed. I expect her translational research will foster new treatment approaches to the benefit of millions of individuals who suffer from this debilitating condition.”

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back pain