“Retraining” the brain to communicate with the back can help alleviate chronic back pain, according to a study.
Teaching people how to think about their body in pain, how they process sensory information from their back and how they move their back during activities can help ease pain and improve quality of life, the authors said.
Researchers, led by academics at the University of New South Wales in Australia and Neuroscience Research Australia (NeuRA), examined whether “sensorimotor retraining” could benefit people with chronic back pain.
People were happier, they reported their backs felt better and their quality of life was better.
Professor James McAuley
The study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, saw 276 participants put into two groups: one undertook a 12-week course of sensorimotor retraining and the other received a 12-week course of sham treatments.
“What we observed in our trial was a clinically meaningful effect on pain intensity and a clinically meaningful effect on disability,” said Professor James McAuley, from the university’s School of Health Sciences and NeuRA.
“People were happier, they reported their backs felt better and their quality of life was better.
“It also looks like these effects were sustained over the long term; twice as many people were completely recovered.
“Very few treatments for low back pain show long-term benefits, but participants in the trial reported improved quality of life one year later.”
He added: “This is the first new treatment of its kind for back pain – which has been the number one cause of the Global Disability Burden for the last 30 years – that has been tested against placebo.”