New research says chronic back pain best treated with a range of approaches

In Australia billions of dollars are spent annually on healthcare and missed work due to low back pain.

Treating chronic back pain using a combination of physical, social and psychosocial treatments will improve pain management and decrease the chances of disability for sufferers, according to research published in the British Medical Journal.

The study provides new evidence in favour of a multidisciplinary approach to treating chronic back pain, one that targets the various physical, psychological and social factors associated with chronic pain. 

According to the World Health Organization, low back pain is responsible for more disability across the globe than any other health condition. 

Billions of dollars are spent annually on healthcare and missed work due to low back pain, in Australia alone.

Study lead and physiotherapist, Dr Steven Kamper of The George Institute and The University of Sydney, explains that treatment is more likely to be successful if it includes components that target not only physical factors.

“It was important to do this study because the multidisciplinary programs are already being used in practice, but we didn’t really know whether they are effective or not, and it is important for people to know what to expect and the benefits that can be had.” 

“We found that people with chronic low back pain who receive this kind of treatment will have less pain and disability compared to the other treatments.

“Back pain can be incredibly debilitating and anyone who suffers from it knows the toll on their physical and emotional wellbeing is significant. We want to reduce this and get sufferers back to good health as soon as possible,” said Dr. Kamper.

Multidisciplinary treatment programs for chronic back pain involve hands-on exercise programs to deal with the physical issues of long term back pain, as well as education about unhelpful beliefs, relaxation techniques and strategies to gradually increase physical functions and cope with pain.

“Every person’s treatment is different, and therefore using a multidisciplinary approach means clinicians from multiple professions including medical doctors, physiotherapists, psychologists and occupational therapists, are all involved in tailoring treatment to individual needs,” said Dr. Kamper. 

“It is important that this kind of treatment should be an option for patients with persistent symptoms of psychosocial distress, yet, equally that they understand the commitment involved,” he said.  

“The next step is to see whether this approach is cost-effective, which is a study we are working on at the moment. This will help inform whether making them available to more people could help reduce the impact of low back pain, for individuals and for society as a whole.”

To view a short video of Steve discussing the research, please click here.