Retraining the Body: A New Treatment for Chronic Back Pain

A recent randomized controlled study has discovered a new treatment for chronic back pain which centers around retraining how your spine communicates with your brain.
Researchers divided 276 individuals into two groups; the first received sensorimotor retraining for 12 weeks while the other received a 12-week course of sham treatment – both are used as placebo treatments in studies on low back pain.

Sensorimotor retraining alters how people view pain in their body, how sensory information from their back is processed, and how the back moves while engaging in activities.

The study’s results demonstrated a clinically significant decrease in both disability and pain intensity. Individuals reported feeling happier, their backs had been strengthened, and their quality of life increased – benefits which persisted even one year later!

This treatment for chronic back pain stands in contrast to traditional approaches, such as medications and treatments aimed directly at the spine such as spinal cord stimulators implants, surgery, injections or spinal manipulation; instead viewing chronic back pain as a modifiable nervous system issue rather than muscle, bone or disc disorder.

Research conducted on chronic back pain patients has demonstrated that their nervous systems react differently than individuals who have recently suffered lower back injuries.

Individuals suffering from back pain are typically informed that their back is vulnerable and requires protection, altering how information from the back is interpreted and moved, gradually making the back less flexible over time and disrupting brain-back communication, further reinforcing this self-sustaining cycle of pain. Researchers created treatment methods in an attempt to break this self-perpetuating cycle.

Sensorimotor retraining and specially developed education methods and modules designed to address nervous system disruption is intended to address its role in chronic back pain, which results in inaccurate communication between back and brain as well as an oversensitive pain system.

Treatment aims to do three things. First is aligning patient understanding with scientific knowledge regarding causes of chronic back pain; secondly is normalizing how the back and brain communicate; thirdly is to slowly but surely return the body back into a protective environment and resume normal activities.

Sensorimotor training programs can show individuals where their brain and back are miscommunicating, and provide solutions to strengthen this communication.

Traditional therapies tend to focus on fixing something specific within the back, such as strengthening muscles or loosening joints or injecting discs. Sensorimotor retraining considers all aspects of how backs communicate with their brains, how individuals perceive them and move them, as well as their fitness level and potential issues with this part of the system.

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