Patients suffering from chronic back pain have found hope thanks to a new treatment that focuses on changing to improve the way the back and brain communicate, as a randomised controlled trial conducted by researchers from UNSW Sydney and Neuroscience Research Australia (NeuRA) along with different Australian or European universities has revealed.

The study, which was financed with the help of the Australian National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC), was published today in a study published within the Journal of the American Medical Association. The study, which was conducted at NeuRA which is located in Melbourne, divided the 276 subjects into two categories: one took 12 weeks of retraining the sensorimotor system, while the other was given a 12-week course of sham treatment intended to reduce placebo effects that are typical for low back pain research.

Prof. James McAuley from UNSW’s School of Health Sciences and NeuRA said that sensorimotor training alters how people perceive their body’s pain and how they process details through their back in addition to how they shift their back in the course of their activities.

“What we found in our study was a clinically relevant impact on the intensity of pain and an impact that was clinically meaningful on disability. People felt happier and reported that their backs felt better , and their overall quality of life was improved. It is also possible that the effects lasted for a long time more than twice as many recovered completely. There are very few treatments for lower back discomfort have proven long-lasting benefits However, the participants in the study were able to report improved levels of quality of life one year later.”

The new approach challenges conventional treatment options for chronic back pain, including treatment and drugs that focus on the back like spinal manipulation surgical procedures, injections, and spinal cord stimulators by focusing on long-lasting back pain as a fixable issue of the nervous system instead of a bone, disc or muscle issue.

“If you look at the results in comparison to studies that examine opioid therapy against placebo, if the difference in that case of less than one point in 10 in the intensity of pain, it’s only short-term and there’s not much change in disabled. We have similar results in studies that compare manual therapy with exercise or sham,” Prof. McAuley declared.

“This will be the only treatment for back pain , which has been the most frequent reason for the Global Disability Burden for the past 30 years — and has been evaluated with placebo.”

How does it work

Professor. McAuley said the treatment is founded on research that proved the nervous system of those who suffer from chronic back discomfort behaves differently from those with injuries to their lower back.

“People who suffer from back discomfort are frequently advised that their back is vulnerable and requires safeguarding. This alters how we process and interpret the information we receive from our back as well as how you move your back. As time passes it is apparent that the back gets less active and the way that it and the back as well as the brain interact becomes disrupted in ways that appear to strengthen the belief it is our back can be vulnerable, and requires safeguarding. The treatment we designed seeks to break the self-sustaining cycle” the doctor said.

Prof. Lorimer Moseley AO, Bradley Distinguished Professor at the University of South Australia said, “This treatment, which comprises specially-designed educational programs and methods, as well as sensorsimotor retraining, seeks to address the dysfunction that we know to be the cause in the majority of chronic back pain. It’s an issue with the nervous system. The disruption can cause two issues: a sensitive pain system that is hypersensitive and a poor communications between back and brain.”

The goal of the treatment is to accomplish three objectives. The first goal is to align patients’ understanding with the latest knowledge of the science behind persistent back pain. The second goal is to normalize the way that the back and brain communicate and, thirdly, to gradually train the brain and body back towards a more normal protective setting, and then resume regular routine.

Prof. Ben Wand of Notre Dame University as the clinical director of the study, emphasized the fact that, through a system of training for sensorimotor function patients are able to see that their brains and back do not communicate well and can experience improvements in this communication. He added, “We think this gives patients the confidence to take the recovery method that trains the brain and body.”

It is a way to train the body as well as the brain

Traditional therapies focus on fixing something within your back or injecting discs and loosening joints, or strengthening muscles. What is different about sensorimotor retraining according to Prof. McAuley is that it analyzes the whole system, including how people consider about their back as well as how the back as well as the brain work together, the way in which your back is moved and the overall health that is in the back.

The authors of the study say that further research is required to replicate these findings and also to evaluate the treatment in various settings and in different populations. They would also like to try their treatment on other chronic pain disorders which exhibit similar issues in the system of nerves. They are confident about launching the training program that will bring the new method to clinics. They have also enlisted partners to begin that process.

Once the treatment is accessible through physiotherapists who are trained as well as exercise physiologists and other healthcare professionals – Dr. McAuley hopes this to take place within about six or nine monthsthose suffering from chronic back discomfort should be able access it for a price similar to other treatments offered by these specialists.