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What people need to take control of their lower back pain

In 2016, The Health Innovation Network (HIN) was setting out on a programme to identify how to improve the management of lower back, in particular ‘self-management’. To ground the programme’s tactics and strategy on the needs and priorities of people with lower back pain, they asked Partners in Creation to use our Action Based Co-creation methodology to discover insights and design early ideas for change.


The challenge

Lower back pain is both debilitating

and widespread with 60 to 80% of

the population experiencing it at

some point in their lives. However,

lower back pain is often poorly

managed in primary care leading

to poor outcomes and patient



The results

Ideas created in co-creation included

the concept of a ‘back czar’ coach.

A physical or virtual centre and/or

person who could help ‘curate’ ideas

for self-management (such as

exercises, medication, yoga, etc)

, responding to an individual’s progression and experience. Although this centre/individual needs to demonstrate expertise in judging possible interventions to try, their empathy and experience is more important than being medically qualified.


This idea of a specialist support centre, based around the asset based coaching, providing curated support to match people’s progression and experience of lower back pain, is being taken forward in south London – partly in the NHS and partly outside.


Insights from the project

Pain is a driving issue for people with lower back pain. Although it is a personal experience, it generates similar emotions. People with ongoing lower back pain feel a form of invisibility and ‘stigma’, because those around them – friends, families, colleagues and caring professionals – have difficulty understanding the severity of their experience. Despite this, ‘self-management’ shouldn’t mean ‘solo management’: people with lower back pain crave a structured and supported journey trying different ways of self-managing their pain.


The method

A single Action Based Co-creationTM workshop, slotting into the HIN’s process of change, to generate insight into the personal and private experiences of people with lower back pain, and create new and task appropriate ideas to test.



“I’d challenge anyone, who says ‘Oh, we know about this problem.’ We work day in, day out on this, but it still opened my eyes on lots of things. It’s as close as you are going to get as a healthcare professional to having that problem. It’s led us exploring a totally new type of service.”

Fay Sibley, Senior Project Manager (MSK), Health Innovation Network 

People with lower back pain collaborating with clinicians, commissioners and the client to understand the challenge better and invent new products and services for the future

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