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March 01, 2010

Back pain may be 'in the mind'

Back pain may be all in the mind, according to researchers who recommend sufferers should seek psychological counselling.
Back PainIn a study, patients given the therapy showed double the improvement of those who received standard treatment.
Researchers believe that the counselling, or cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) sessions, works because if you can help people to change their thoughts, it will help them to change the way they feel.

CBT is already used to treat a range of problems from phobias & panic attacks to stress at work. Practitioners aim to help patients avoid dwelling on negative thoughts & to find ways to overcome them. Professor Sarah Lamb, of the University of Warwick, said: "Effective treatments that result in sustained improvements in low-back pain are elusive.

"This trial shows that a bespoke cognitive behavioural intervention package is effective in managing subacute & chronic low-back pain in primary care." Lower back pain is a very common problem affecting one in three adults in the UK each year, with an estimated 2.5 million people seeking help from their GP. For many people the pain goes away in days or weeks. But for some, the pain can persist for a long time & become debilitating. Senior research fellow Zara Hansen said psychological counselling for back pain could even go online.

Although the study involved face to face meetings with therapists the treatment could be adapted to be delivered over the internet, she said.

"There is no panacea for lower back pain but when you consider up to 80% of people will have it at some time in their lives a programme that can deliver improvement for so many can 've a massive impact," he added.

During the study 468 patients were given six sessions of group CBT, while another 233 were not – & were to act as a control group. Those receiving the CBT saw pain and disability levels fall twice as much as the other group.
The findings were published by the Lancet Journal.

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