The first effective treatment for back pain which changes how the brain and back communicate has been developed by scientists.
The 12-week course which focuses on the nervous system rather than pain killers and manipulation leaves twice as many people pain-free as conventional treatment.
The basic principle comes from a simple concept that sometimes mind can overcome matter, and since back pain has been the number one cause of the Global Disability Burden for the last 30 years, even it bears looking into.
Researchers say the system, called sensorimotor retraining, changes how people think about their body in pain, process sensations from their back and how they move their back as they go about daily lives.
People who did it said they were happier, their backs felt better and they reported having a better quality of life, and improvements were still felt a year later, even while most existing treatments for back pain do not help people for long.
The findings were published in the Journal of the American Medical association.
The main difference is that sensorimotor retraining sees back pain as a problem in the nervous system that can be changed, rather than a disc, bone or muscle problem.
The treatment is based on research that shows the nervous system of people who suffer from chronic back pain actually behaves in a different way to people who have had a recent injury to their lower back, and includes this education as part of the 12 weeks.
The team say that, because people are told their back is vulnerable and needs protecting, this changes the way the back and brain communicate so their back is given messages that it is vulnerable.
It becomes weaker in the process and the team hope their treatment can stop this self-fulfilling pattern by correcting two problems common in back pain: a hypersensitive pain system, and bad communication between the brain and back.
The authors say people can see their back and brain are not communicating well and slowly learn to train their brain and body to fix the problem.
Normally back therapies focus on fixing something in the back straight away—such as injecting a disc, loosening up joints or strengthening muscles.
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