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Psychological Interventions Ease Chronic Low Back Pain

Hypnosis, biofeedback and relaxation improve quality of life, study finds

FRIDAY, Dec. 22, 2006 (HealthDay News) -- Psychological treatments such as hypnosis, biofeedback, relaxation and counseling can help relieve chronic low back pain, according to a review in the January issue of the journal Health Psychology.

U.S. researchers examined the findings of 22 studies of patients with low back pain conducted between 1982 and 2003 and concluded that psychological treatments not only improve health-related quality of life and lower the risk of depression, they also reduce patients' experience of pain.

"Because this analysis was both more inclusive and more conservative than previous reviews, we have the best evidence to date that these interventions are helpful," review lead author Robert Kerns, of the VA Connecticut Healthcare System, said in a prepared statement.

Kearns said he and his colleagues were somewhat surprised by the finding that psychological treatments can reduce pain. That's because when psychologists first started to develop these kinds of treatments several decades ago, the objective was to help patients cope with their pain, not to actually lower their pain levels.

"However, a growing body of knowledge suggests that these interventions are actually having a primary effect on people's experience of pain," Kearns said.

The review found that of all the psychological interventions, cognitive-behavioral and self-regulatory treatments seemed to provide the greatest benefits to patients with low back pain.

"Psychological interventions are not cures, but they do reduce pain and improve function, and they are important components in the treatment of people with chronic pain," Dennis Turk, professor of anesthesiology and pain research at the University of Washington in Seattle, said in a prepared statement.

More information

The U.S. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke has more about low back pain.

SOURCE: Center for the Advancement of Health, news release, Dec. 22, 2006
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