Skip to content

    Back Pain Health Center

    Font Size
    A
    A
    A

    Talk Therapy May Treat Low Back Pain

    Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Beneficial, Cost-effective, U.K. Study Finds
    By
    WebMD Health News
    Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

    Feb. 25, 2010 -- A treatment designed to challenge how people with low back pain think about their condition and change their behaviors was shown to have long-term benefits in a newly published study.

    Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) proved more effective than a single session with a health care provider in reducing pain over the course of a year.

    The study is among the largest ever to examine CBT for chronic back pain, which is among the most common, costly, and difficult-to-treat health problems.

    "This wasn’t psychotherapy and we absolutely are not saying that back pain is a psychological problem,” study co-author Zara Hansen tells WebMD. "Back pain is very much a physical problem, but the way a patient thinks about it can affect how it is managed."

    CBT for Low Back Pain

    Most adults experience low back pain at some point in their lives. In many, the pain goes away after a few days or weeks, but in others it can last for months or come and go for many years.

    Americans spend at least $50 billion each year on low back pain, and it is the most frequent cause of job-related disability, according to the National Institutes of Health.

    Pain-relieving drugs, exercise, spinal manipulation, surgery, and even alternative treatments such as acupuncture and biofeedback have all shown some success in the treatment of low back pain, but many patients do not respond to these treatments.

    To test the benefits of CBT as a therapy for chronic low back pain, Hansen and colleagues from the University of Warwick in England recruited 701 patients from general medicine practices across the country.

    All the patients had an initial consultation that lasted about 15 minutes and stressed the benefits of remaining active, avoiding bed rest, and taking pain medication when appropriate. They were also given a book to read, which described various treatments for back pain.

    About a third got no other intervention but were allowed to seek additional treatment on their own. The rest had a thorough one-on-one medical assessment and participated in up to six sessions of group cognitive behavioral therapy over the course of about three months.

    Today on WebMD

    Woman holding lower back
    Or is it another form of back pain?
    Hand on back
    See the myths vs. the facts.
     
    Woman doing pilates
    Good and bad exercises.
    acupuncture needles in woman's back
    Use it to manage your pain.
     
    Man with enhanced spinal column, rear view
    Video
    pain in brain and nerves
    Slideshow
     
    Chronic Pain Healtcheck
    Health Check
    break at desk
    Article
     
    Woman holding lower back
    Slideshow
    Weight Loss Surgery
    Slideshow
     
    lumbar spine
    Slideshow
    back pain
    Article