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Scientists develop new revolutionary treatment for back pain

Back pain has been the number one cause of the Global Disability Burden for the last 30 years.


health problem and people concept - unhappy young woman suffering from pain in back or reins over grey background
(Ground Picture via Shutterstock)

By Gwyn Wright via SWNS

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.

Back pain has been the number one cause of the Global Disability Burden for the last 30 years.

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.

Improvements were still felt a year later, while most existing treatments for low back pain do not help people for long.

It is different to existing treatments for back pain- such as spinal manipulation, jabs, surgery and spinal cord stimulators- because it sees back pain as a problem in the nervous system that can be changed rather than a disc, bone or muscle problem.

It includes education as well as sensorimotor retraining.

health problem and people concept - unhealthy african american man suffering from shoulder pain over white background
(Ground Picture via Shutterstock)

It is based on research that shows the nervous system of people who suffer from chronic back pain behaves in a different way to people who have had a recent injury to their lower back.

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.

It aims to correct 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.

This one is different because it gets people to think about their back as a whole- how people think about their back, how the back and brain communicate, how the back moves and how fit it is.

For the study, 276 people were split into two groups- one who did the therapy for 12 weeks and another who were given bogus therapies for the same amount of time.

It will be delivered by trained physiotherapists, exercise psychologists and other experts.

Study author Professor James McAuley from the University of New South Wales said: ‘’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.

‘’If you compare the results to studies looking at opioid treatment versus placebo, the difference for that is less than one point out of 10 in pain intensity, and it is only short term and there is little improvement in disability.

‘’We see similar results for studies comparing manual therapy to sham (therapy) and exercise to sham (therapy).’’

The findings were published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

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