More and more medical research is focusing on the issue of back pain. This is in part because back pain is at an epidemic level, but it's also because standard medical treatments don't always help.
One way of treating the issue is by addressing patients' thoughts about the pain they experience. This is known as cognitive therapy, which has several different therapeutic styles under its umbrella.
Another way is with mindfulness therapy. This form of therapy deals with how patients experience pain. Mindfulness-based stress reduction is a popular form of mindfulness therapy.
Although the two share similarities, cognitive therapy and mindfulness therapy are distinct forms of therapy.
Editor's Note: Have you heard about this new back pain program yet? We were impressed.
We know that these treatments are helpful for patients with chronic back pain. But we still don't under stand why.
This is what researchers at the University of Washington School of Medicine hope to clarify. The News Tribune reported on the study:
The Mechanisms of Psychosocial Treatments for Chronic Low Back Pain study will begin Feb. 23, and is looking for 300 adults to participate. Recruitment will continue over the next two years.
Results of the study eventually could help determine who might benefit from exercise-based therapy versus cognitive/mindfulness therapies, or a mix of both.
The purpose of the study, as stated on their website:
Chronic low back pain (CLBP) is a significant problem affecting millions of Americans. Research has shown that psychological treatments can help people with CLBP manage their pain and improve their quality of life. Three common psychological treatments for CLBP are Cognitive Therapy (CT), Mindfulness Meditation (MM), and Activation Skills (AS). While research has shown these treatments are helpful for people with CLBP, there is little research explaining why these treatments are helpful. The purpose of this study is to understand the specific ways these treatments work. Increasing our understanding of how these treatments work will help researchers and clinicians improve treatments for people with CLBP in the future.
While the specifics of the study's aim are a bit complex, the birds-eye view is that they are trying to better understand how cognitive therapy and mindfulness therapy lead to improvement in patients experiencing back pain. The News Tribune reports:
Jensen used a refrigerator metaphor to explain the difference between the two mental treatment approaches.
“If you have healthy content, you’re fine,” he said, “but if you have only cookies and ice cream and candy, you don’t have much choice. Most of us have a combination when it comes to our thoughts. Cognitive changes the content; mindfulness is what we do with our thoughts.”
The study is specifically focused on low back pain. It is important to note however that cognitive therapy and mindfulness therapy are both used for a variety of pain types, so the study results will be of interest to a variety of clinical settings.
They are currently recruiting volunteers at clinicaltrials.gov. Volunteers must be 18 or older and have a diagnosis of moderate-to-severe back pain.