Gordon Waddell, Pioneer in the Treatment of Back Pain, Has Died

May 17, 2017

Professor Gordon Waddell, CBE, DSc, MD, FRCS, an orthopedic surgeon with a particular interest in back pain and pain-associated disability, has died at age 74. His tremendous capacity for careful data collection and analysis served as the foundation for a new approach to the clinical assessment of low back pain.

In 1987, Waddell won the prestigious Volvo award for his biopsychosocial model of low back disability. This new theoretical framework proved to be a focus for a fundamental change leading to the current approach to back pain's clinical management.

He was an active key member of the many guideline and policy groups in the UK and USA and around the world. Waddell co-authored The Back Book, which has been translated into numerous languages. He had a profound and lasting impact on physiotherapy and rehabilitation through recognizing the importance of physical activity in the management of low back pain at a time when bed rest and passive therapies were often the norm. He also made a major contribution to the development of occupational health around the world, having published numerous high-quality reviews and books focused on key issues related to back pain in the work setting.  

Perhaps his greatest achievement was his textbook, The Back Pain Revolution, first published in 1999 and updated in 2004. More than any other publication, this book changed the way back pain is treated and managed, and Waddell’s insights have illuminated clinical practice, teaching, and research all over the world.

An extended tribute to Gordon Waddell will appear in an upcoming edition of PAIN.

-- Chris J. Main, Kim Burton, Francis J. Keefe, Michael K. Nicholas, Paul J. Watson