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Group therapy may ease back pain


As many as 8 out of 10 people suffer from back pain at some point or another in their lives and for many it grows into a crippling, debilitating disease which makes everyday tasks and movements a painful chore.

Though there are many underlying conditions that may cause back pain, such as osteoporosis – of which comedienne Joan Rivers is a sufferer – and spinal stenosis, new research has suggested that much can be simply put down to mindset.

According to a study published in The Lancet journal, sufferers can find lasting relief from group cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). During the trial, conducted in England, 701 adults with low back pain were picked from 56 general practices and received advice on managing their pain through various practical means such as remaining physically active.

Of those trial participants, 468 were randomly picked to partake in up to six sessions of group CBT, while the rest experienced no further intervention. 85% in both groups respectively were included in the primary analysis at 12 months, while the rest dropped out predominantly due to unwillingness to fill out questionnaires.

After the 1 year, those partaking in the CBT scored significantly higher in the questionnaires designed to measure pain and disability, showing they were more positive about being able to deal with their pain and less fearful of their situation, The Press Association (PA) reported.

The news provider also cited study leader, Professor Sarah Lamb at the University of Warwick, who said: “Compared with advice alone, advice plus cognitive behavioral intervention was associated with significant benefits in nearly all outcomes. Effective treatments that result in sustained improvements in low-back pain are elusive.”

In addition to the effectiveness of the treatment in relieving suffering, the team of researchers also pointed out its cost-effectiveness – CBT could serve as a good low cost alternative to traditional and more expensive pain relief methods. The PA states that six group CBT sessions cost just £187 (around $285).

The BBC asked study author Zara Hansen of the University of Warwick for her comment. The research fellow said healthcare professionals could learn how to run such treatment courses in a matter of days, adding:

“The exciting bit here is that with a lot of back pain interventions, you’ll get a feel-good factor and patients will feel better while they’re undergoing the treatment but it’s a short-term effect. But we showed they improve up to six months and then this is maintained for up to a year as they learn to manage their condition.”

Image: Evil Erin

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