Back pain treatments should include the mind

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Relationships decline between chronic pain sufferers and their pharmacists

A recent study published in The BMJ reveals that the best treatment for chronic lower back pain involves a combination of physiotherapy treatments and psychological intervention.

Led by Professor Paulo Ferreira and PhD candidate Emma Ho from the University of Sydney’s Charles Perkins Centre and the Faculty of Medicine and Health, the research combined and analysed evidence from almost 100 trials worldwide involving more than 13,000 patients.

The analysis reveals that a combination of physiotherapy alongside psychological interventions, predominantly behavioural therapy and pain education, produced the most sustainable benefits for physical function and pain intensity.

According to the researchers, these results could help improve the clarity of guidelines to better support patients and clinicians in making treatment decisions around chronic pain.

However further research is needed into the long-term effectiveness of such treatments.

Ms Ho says it is well known that adults with chronic low back pain not only experience physical disability but often also suffer psychological distress in the form of anxiety, depression or fear of pain from movement.

“Clinical guidelines consistently recommend a combination of exercise and psychosocial therapies for managing chronic low back pain, however very little is actually known about the different types of psychological therapies available and their effectiveness,” she says.

“This leaves doctors and patients often unclear about the best choice of treatment. It is this uncertainty that motivated us to conduct the study.”