Cognitive behavioral therapy can treat chronic back pain – The News (subscription)

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Lasting pain switches brain activity away from pain circuits to circuits that process emotions. That’s why emotions like anxiety often take center stage in chronic back pain. The good news is that CBT and mindfulness training can be helpful for chronic back pain. The researchers showed that training people with chronic low back pain in either mindfulness or CBT worked significantly better than medical care alone to reduce both their disability and pain-related suffering. What’s more, this greater improvement, was still evident a full year later, when the study ended.

Key Takeaways:

  • The symptoms caused by physical illnesses can generate anxiety and irrational fears. These, in turn, can make the pain worse.
  • Pain itself can rewire your brain as well. When pain first occurs, it impacts your pain-sensitivity brain circuits.
  • Mindfulness training teaches us to be aware of, and accept, moment-to-moment physical sensations of discomfort. At the same time, it teaches us to let go of our usual negative reactions.

“Low back pain is the second most common cause of disability in the United States. Yet even though back pain is so common, not all people respond in the same way to this often-disabling condition.”