Low Back Pain: The Mind/Body Connection

Disclaimer: Results are not guaranteed*** and may vary from person to person***.

Back pain — it’s such a common and debilitating experience. So many of us are looking for long-term relief from back pain that doesn’t involve ingesting drugs and risking many nasty side effects every day. Now, researchers in Staffordshire, England might have come up with a new, alternative treatment for people suffering from low back pain.

 The randomized clinical trial looked at 402 people, between the ages of 18 and 64, who had been suffering from low back pain for less than 12 weeks. Half of the study participants received standard care for this type of pain — physiotherapy (diagnosis and treatment of back problems through manual therapy, including massage and exercise) — and the other half underwent a pain management program that attempted to resolve “psychosocial” factors, which were causing or contributing to the problem.

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 By psychosocial factors, the researchers were referring to the mental/emotional distress and socially influenced ideas about pain that can prevent a person from recovering from his/her back problems. So, this means that it’s not necessarily just a physical problem that’s causing your pain, but that your mind could also be playing a big role in the problem as well.

 The new type of therapy — a pain management program — involved teaching the subjects to set goals in their own therapy and to conquer mental and emotional issues that might be interfering with their rehabilitation. The patients learned how to create their own management plan to deal with the back pain, including an at-home fitness regime. They also learned about the connection between pain and the mind.

 In the program, the subjects were taught strategies to help them deal with these types of problems; for example, recognizing and learning to avoid things that trigger their pain, and learning to deal with negative emotions, such as fear, that stand in the way of their recovery.

 The researchers followed up with both groups of patients at three months and 12 months. When measuring results, the British researchers mainly looked at how much the back- pain sufferers’ levels of disability had changed. They also examined less concrete issues. These included whether the patients were happy with whatever treatment they had received, if their pain was more or less severe, if they were experiencing depression, if they were still afraid to move due to back pain, and how they dealt with these challenges.

 The results were very similar for the two groups, suggesting that the pain management technique is about as effective as physiotherapy. While more studies should be done to determine whether this new type of mind/body therapy could provide short-term relief in low back pain sufferers, and whether it’s more beneficial in specific types of patients than in others, it still shows a lot of promise.

 These findings don’t mean that physiotherapy is obsolete — on the contrary, it is still very effective for some people. However, it’s obvious that pain is very complicated and healing that pain should involve a whole-body approach. Therefore, the structure of physiotherapy should be reevaluated, so that it can also teach people how to deal with the psychosocial aspects of their back pain. The more approaches we have against low back pain, the greater the chance of recovery will be for sufferers — and that translates to a lesser the chance of long-term disability for many people.