New research suggests that fixing lower back pain could happen by altering how the brain and body communicate. Hundreds of millions of people worldwide suffer from lower back pain and are familiar with standard treatments, including shots, surgery, medications, and spinal manipulations. However, this new research suggests a new technique that doesn’t involve drugs or surgery.
Lower back pain is the world’s leading cause of disability. So, a group of scientists across the U.S., Europe, and Australia have come together to test the effectiveness of altering neural networks to recognize pain.
The study included two groups of 138 participants with chronic low back pain. One group received a graded sensorimotor retraining intervention (RESOLVE) and the other with mock laser therapy and noninvasive brain stimulation.
It was found that the RESOLVE 12-week training course resulted in a statistically significant improvement in pain intensity at 18 weeks.
“What we observed in our trial was a clinically meaningful effect on pain intensity and a clinically meaningful effect on disability. People were happier, they reported their backs felt better, and their quality of life was better,” the study’s lead author, James McAuley, Ph.D., said. “This is the first new treatment of its kind for back pain.”
Over time, communication between the back and brain changes. This leads to the brain interpreting signals from the back differently and changing how the body moves. Researchers believe that these neural changes make a recovery from pain slower and more complicated.
As the back becomes less fit, the way the back and brain communicate is disrupted, reinforcing the idea that the back is vulnerable and needs protecting. The new treatment that researchers are monitoring aims to break this cycle.
The RESOLVE treatment focuses on improving this transformed brain-back communication by slowly retraining the body and the brain without using opioids or surgery.
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