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Back pain: How your emotional state can affect pain felt in your back

NHS explain the best ways to treat back pain

Back pain can strike at any moment and can negatively affect a person’s life. Experts believe negative emotions could affect lower back pain and hypothesise meditation being a better remedy than painkillers. How?

According to Bupa, emotional factors that can increase the risk of a person’s back pain becoming chronic include:

Believing that pain and activity are harmful. These may be a person’s own beliefs, but they can be reinforced by family members who may be trying to protect them.

Negative actions can reinforce the belief that a person is unwell – for example, staying in bed for a long time.

Having a low or negative mood, depression, anxiety or stress.

Having low expectations of how well treatment will work.

Relying too much on passive treatments (ones that don’t expect a person to do anything) such as painkillers, hot and cold packs, massage and electrotherapy.

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The health body added: “Although you may think your pain is a warning sign to stop you doing

People can seek psychological support to aid their back recovery.

The NHS recommends trying cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) – this can be a useful part of treatment if a person is struggling to cope with their pain.

CBT, along with mindfulness techniques, have been proven to help chronic back pain.

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In a study published in Jama Network, the effect of mindfulness-based stress reduction vs cognitive behavioural therapy on back pain was analysed.

Daniel C. Cherkin, Ph.D., of Group Health Research Institute, Seattle, and colleagues randomly assigned 342 adults age 20 to 70 years with chronic low back pain to receive MBSR, cognitive behavioural therapy, or usual care.

The study noted: “CBT and MBSR were delivered in eight weekly two-hour groups.

“Usual care included whatever other treatment, if any, the participants received.

“The average age of the participants was 49 years; the average duration of back pain was 7.3 years.”

The researchers found that at 26 weeks, the percentage of participants with clinically meaningful improvement on a measure of functional limitations was higher for those who received MBSR (61 percent) and CBT (58 percent) than for usual care (44 per cent).

The percentage of participants with clinically meaningful improvement in pain bothersome at 26 weeks was 44 per cent in the MBSR group and 45 per cent in the CBT group, versus 27 per cent in the usual care group.

Findings for MBSR persisted with little change at 52 weeks for both primary outcomes.

Commenting on the findings, the study authors said: “The effects were moderate in size, which has been typical of evidence-based treatments recommended for chronic low back pain.

“These benefits are remarkable given that only 51 percent of those randomised to receive MBSR and 57 per cent of those randomised to receive CBT attended at least six of the eight sessions.

“These findings suggest that MBSR may be an effective treatment option for patients with chronic low back pain.”

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