I came across this article from the US National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (US spelling)
The summary is that “A single 2-hour pain self-management skills class is no less effective than an 8-week, 16-hour cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) program for reducing pain catastrophizing, pain intensity, and pain interference in adults with chronic low-back pain, according to a new Stanford University study.”
They go on to say “Three months after receiving one of these treatments, participants in both the single-session pain class and the CBT program showed clinically meaningful reductions in pain catastrophizing scores. The reduction in pain catastrophizing score in the group that attended the single-session pain class was not significantly inferior to that in the CBT group. Both treatments were superior to health education for reducing pain catastrophizing scores. The single-session pain class was noninferior to CBT and superior to the health education class in reducing scores for pain intensity and pain interference (the extent to which pain limits or interferes with a person’s activities).”
“The findings from this study indicate that a single pain management skills class can have meaningful benefits for patients with chronic low-back pain. The researchers who conducted the study said that this new intervention may improve access to care because it is adaptable to medical or community settings and may be offered at low or no cost. They cautioned, however, that their study participants were mostly White and of high socioeconomic status. It’s uncertain whether similar results would be obtained among participants of different socioeconomic status or in racially/ethnically diverse populations. “
I’m always cautious as a practitioner about promising too much to people from one session, but previously have had a client experience a considerable improvement in back pain after one Yoga Therapy session.
This research finding underscores that back pain is complex – is not just physical, its also psychological, emotional and social. Therapeutically we consider it using a BioPsychoSocial model which looks at both cause and effect of back pain from a physical, psychological and social basis. It can be hard sometimes to accept that back pain is more complex than just physical tissue damage (the Bio in BioPsychoSocial) but we all know how a long term injury can effect mood – we tend to appreciate less how mood can make our experience of pain worse. Add in the social impact if we cannot work or enjoy our social lifes, and we end up stuck at home. What research of this nature shows is that a targeted session can help change our experience, expectations and outlook.
However as a note of caution, this doesn’t mean that quick fix remedies are all thats needed. With something as complex as ongoing back pain a regular programme of exercise and mind body work will always reap benefits. It would have been interesting to see the longer term outcomes from this research of a single session versus an eight week course.
Although the initial outcomes were similar, I would expect, long term, the eight week participants to enjoy more in the way of ongoing improvement in their experience of back pain.