Talking therapy can help chronic lower back pain

doctor with patient

A study looking at the use of ‘talking therapy’ to relieve chronic lower back pain has been supported by a leading arthritis research body.

Talking therapy, or contextual cognitive behavioural therapy (CCBT), involves getting patients to accept that the pain cannot be cured and encourages and teaches them how to live with it.

Arthritis Research UK says the treatment is credible and promising, especially when used in conjunction with physiotherapy.

The study 

Researchers at Royal Holloway, University of London looked at people who’d had lower back pain for at least 3 months, suffering psychological distress and avoiding everyday activities because if it. 

The 89 patients received either CCBT or physiotherapy. CCBT was provided on a one-to-one basis by trained psychologists, while the physiotherapy was done in group sessions. 

The study found that positive changes in disability and pain over a 6-month period were greater in the CCBT group than in the physiotherapy group. 

Lead researcher, Professor Tamar Pincus, found many of the patients felt a combination of both physiotherapy and CCBT was the best treatment. 

Several of the clinicians who took part in the study agreed combining the two treatments to deal with both the physical and psychological aspects was the best way forward. 

While the study concluded that CCBT was an acceptable intervention for patients who exhibited psychological obstacles to their recovery, researchers warned the findings should be interpreted with caution due to the small study group involved.

Challenges to treatment

Dr Stephen Simpson, director of research programmes at Arthritis Research UK, has welcomed the research. 

He says that for many, chronic lower back pain can be a major psychological issue, which can be a barrier to finding effective treatments. 

The research was published in the BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders journal.

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