If you’ve ever struggled with low back pain, you know that it can be surprisingly debilitating, even if the discomfort is short-term. You may find it difficult to grocery shop, do housework, play sports, or even tie your shoelaces. When back pain is chronic, lasting 12 weeks or longer, it can impair quality of life and physical function, and contribute to or worsen stress, anxiety, and depression.
While people dealing with chronic back pain are often directed to physical therapy, research shows that psychological approaches that teach strategies to manage your experience of pain can help. So, would combining these approaches do more to ease the pain?
Worldwide, low back pain is a leading cause of disability. A recent systematic review of multiple studies suggests that it might.Jone Mark
How big is this problem, and what did this study find?
Worldwide, low back pain is a leading cause of disability and affects more than 560 million people. In the US, four in 10 people surveyed in 2019 had experienced low back pain within the past three months, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
- For improving physical function and fear-avoidance, pain education programs in conjunction with physical therapy offered the most sustained effects.
- For improving pain intensity, behavioral therapy combined with physical therapy offered the longest-lasting benefits.
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The review revealed that physical therapy plus psychological approaches, such as pain education and cognitive behavioral therapy, more effectively improved chronic low back pain than physical therapy alone.
The study shows the advantages of an interdisciplinary approach to chronic low back pain. Integrating behavioral therapy and physical therapy helped people achieve better function, reduce the cycle of avoidant behavior, and reduce the intensity of their pain.