August 5, 2022 – Are you one of the hundreds of millions of people around the world suffering from low back pain? If so, you may be familiar with the standard treatments such as surgery, injections, medications, and spinal manipulations. But new research suggests that the solution to the world’s leading cause of disability may lie in how the brain and body communicate.
In a bid to challenge traditional treatments for chronic back pain, scientists from Australia, Europe and the United States have come together to test the effectiveness of altering the way neural networks recognize pain to new research published this week in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
The randomized clinical trial recruited two groups of 138 participants with chronic low back pain, testing one group with a new method called graded sensorimotor rehabilitation intervention (RESOLVE) and the other with things like sham laser therapy and brain stimulation. Non invasive.
The researchers found that the 12-week RESOLVE training course resulted in a statistically significant improvement in pain intensity at 18 weeks.
“What we observed in our trial was a clinically significant effect on pain intensity and a clinically significant effect on disability. People were happier, they said their backs felt better and their quality life was better,” said the study’s lead author, James McAuley, PhD, in a statement. “This is the first new treatment of its kind for back pain.”
The communication between your brain and your back changes over time when you have chronic lower back pain, causing the brain to interpret signals from the back differently and alter the way you move. These neural changes are thought to make recovery from pain slower and more complicated, according to Neuroscience Research Australia (NeuRA), a non-profit research institute in Sydney, Australia.
“Over time, the back becomes less fit and the way the back and the brain communicate is disrupted in ways that seem to reinforce the notion that the back is vulnerable and needs to be protected,” said McAuley, a professor at the University of New South Wales. and a principal investigator of NeuRA. “The treatment we have designed aims to break this self-perpetuating cycle.”
The RESOLVE treatment focuses on improving this transformed brain-back communication by slowly re-training the body and brain without the use of opioids or surgery. People in the study reported an improvement in their quality of life 1 year later, according to McAuley.
The researchers said the pain improvement was “modest” and the method will need to be tested on other patients and conditions. They hope to introduce this new treatment to doctors and physiotherapists within the next 6 to 9 months and have already recruited partner organizations to start this process, according to NeuRA.