Root of back pain can be in the mind, say scientists

They have arrived at this conclusion after finding that patients with chronic back pain could get relief from a blend of exercise and mental support.

health and fitness Updated: Jun 26, 2003 13:41 IST

Suffering from back ache? Well, it could be just in your mind. This conclusion was arrived at by a team of researchers from Manchester who examined patients with chronic lower back pain and found that patients could get relief from a combination of exercise and psychological support.

This effort, they believe, could reduce the number of people being put onto waiting lists for scans and conventional therapy, according to a report in BBC.

For the study, Steve Woby of Manchester Metropolitan University studied the treatment of patients with back pain by North Manchester General Hospital. He spent two years evaluating the hospital's programme which has been running since 1999, and which has treated more than 250 people.

The hospital's eight-week scheme encouraged people to exercise, and also addresses their concerns about their back pain. The patients were exposed to actions they may have a fear of, to break their pattern of avoidance and inactivity which can lead to further back problems.

Dr Woby found psychological factors such as depression, fear and low confidence were more important in prolonging the patients' conditions than their physical incapacity.

He said: "Many conventional physiotherapy treatments, such as manipulation, won't address the psychological factors that influence back pain. But by studying the changes that occurred on certain psychological factors - depression, fear of movement and low confidence - we could accurately predict in three out of four cases which patients would overcome their incapacity."

First Published: May 31, 2003 19:12 IST