Facebook can raise awareness about inflammatory back pain

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Facebook can raise awareness about inflammatory back pain

Facebook, a social networking site can effectively be used to raise awareness about the symptoms of inflammatory back pain (IBP). It also plays a key role in early diagnosis, as per a recent study. The findings of the study proposed that advertisement with the aid of Facebook may be more effective way of identifying IBP patients earlier than other approaches which includes newspaper advertisements also.

Back pain is very common and has different causes. Most of the adults live with lower back pain that may last for at least three months. In most cases, pain is mechanical and some have inflammatory back pain. Although, they can feel similar to one another, chronic mechanical and inflammatory back pain have different causes and may need to be managed differently.

For IBP, early diagnosis is key to reduce the risk of severe functional disability and early retirement. Early diagnosis is important because biological therapies such as TNF inhibitors are available that effectively suppress disease activity and improve functional ability in patients that have been refractory to conventional drug therapy. Arumugam Moorthy, MD, lead author of the Department of Rheumatology, University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust, United Kingdom, said, "Patients with inflammatory back pain can wait years for a correct diagnosis. Early treatment is critical in achieving better outcomes for these patients."

A previous study showed an average delay in diagnosis of more than 8 years, with almost one-third of diagnosed patients not referred to a rheumatologist. “We applied a novel recruitment method using Facebook over five months to identify adults in the community with symptoms suggestive of IBP, comparing the outcome with other forms of recruitment, principally newspaper advertising,” Dr. Moorthy added. Of 585 participants, just over three quarters were recruited through Facebook and under one quarter by other methods. The mean age of the Facebook group was of IBP at 41.5 years and of non-Facebook group was higher at 59.4 years. Approximately, 56% met the Calin criteria and Assessment of SpondyloArthritis International Society (ASAS) criteria for IBP. In non-Facebook group, 39% met the Calin and ASAS criteria.

A 45% of Facebook group had MRI scan and 45% had X-ray, whereas 50% of non-Facebook group had MRI scan and 59% said they had been for an X-ray. Dr. Moorthy told “confirms the need for improved education” for general practitioners. Some experts agreed that social media could be a cost-effective way to reach patients.

According to Mark Merolli, PhD, of the Health and Biomedical Informatics Centre (HaBIC), Melbourne Medical School, the University of Melbourne, in Australia, “Social media–based study recruitment has seen rising attention of the last few years." “I have also used social media successfully in this context, and research colleagues, too, have seen success. It’s hard to ignore the positive implications for social media–based study recruitment as reported by Moorthy et al.”

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