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Talking Therapy Can Help Patients With Chronic Low Back Pain

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A form of talking therapy can help people with chronic low back pain, according to new research from Royal Holloway, University of London.

The study shows that a new treatment called Contextual Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CCBT) is a promising treatment for people with chronic low back pain who are also suffering from related psychological stress.

The therapy focuses on accepting pain that cannot be cured, and learning to live life to the full amid the pain.

Researchers tested the credibility and acceptability of CCBT compared to physiotherapy in 89 patients diagnosed with low back pain and high levels of psychological distress. Those receiving talking therapy had up to eight sessions with trained psychologists on a one-to-one basis, while those in the physiotherapy group participated in “back to fitness” group exercises.

Reporting their findings in the journal BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders, the researchers said that CCBT is a credible and acceptable intervention for patients with low back pain who exhibit psychological obstacles to recovery.

Professor Tamar Pincus from the Department of Psychology noted that many patients who took part, as well as several of the clinicians involved — both psychologists and physiotherapists — thought the best treatment was a combination of both talking therapy and physiotherapy to address both the psychological and physical aspects of the condition.

The work was funded by Arthritis Research UK.

Dr. Stephen Simpson, director of research and programmes at the charity, said: “We know that for some people with chronic low back pain psychological stress is a major factor, and therefore there is a significant challenge to find effective treatments. This pilot study has shown that combining physical and psychological approaches could be the way forward to treat this common, often disabling condition more effectively.”