A form of group "talking therapy" is a cheap, effective way to alleviate low back pain, a UK trial has shown. The positive effect was still seen a year after the short six-session therapy programme, The Lancet reported.
The 600 patients taking part in the trial were also offered standard GP treatment including pain medication. The sessions were designed to tackle "unhelpful" beliefs around back pain and physical activity and help patients better manage their condition.
Usually people with low back pain - one of the most common complaints GPs deal with - are advised to keep active, offered pain relief where needed and possibly other treatments such as acupuncture. In the study, 400 people being treated in general practice were offered the six group therapy sessions and 200 people receiving standard care were monitored for a year.
The sessions - based loosely around a technique called cognitive behaviour therapy - were set up to discuss beliefs around doing physical activity and counter negative thoughts about back pain and its restrictions as well as relaxation techniques. The one-and-a-half-hour sessions were also designed to help people overcome "fear" of hurting themselves more and how to get active again whilst avoiding flare-ups.
A year later, the people who underwent therapy scored significantly more highly on questionnaires designed to measure pain and disability.