Special physical therapy technique successful for chronic back pain

04/07/05

MIAMI BEACH A physical therapy method is successful in treating people with severe back pain due to disc disease, according to research that will be presented at the American Academy of Neurology 57th Annual Meeting in Miami Beach, Fla., April 9 16, 2005.

The method, called Souchard's global postural re-education, involves stretching and strengthening of para-spinal and other muscles (abdominal wall) that have become weak and shortened through stress and inadequate or overuse. This process improves symptoms by correction of the patient's posture and decompression of the spinal canal.

"These results are exciting, because other treatments for severe and chronic back pain have limited or no benefit, and the pain rarely goes away on its own," said neurologist Conrado Estol, MD, PhD, of the Neurologic Center for Treatment and Rehabilitation in Buenos Aires, Argentina. "This method is easy for physical therapists to incorporate into their practices after appropriate training. For patients, having an effective treatment without the risks of surgery and the side effects of chronic medication is wonderful."

The study involved 102 people who had severe pain for an average of seven months due to spinal disc protrusions, spinal canal stenosis, or narrowing, or other disc disease. Of those, 82 had lower back pain and 20 had neck pain. They all had received different combinations of treatments for more than six months, including regular physical therapy, rest, oral and intramuscular/intravenous anti-inflammatory medications, acupuncture, and epidural injections.

The pain caused severe changes to the daily routines of 26 of the people, meaning that they stopped working or exercising, could walk fewer than five blocks without stopping, and had to make significant changes to their usual routines. The pain caused moderate changes for 76 people, meaning they were missing work or workouts, could walk fewer than 10 blocks without stopping, and could not complete all of their usual routines.

The treatment included two physical therapy sessions during the first week, then a session once a week for an average of five months. The sessions also included breathing techniques. Patients were also given a home exercise program. Of the 102 people, 92 had significant improvement in their pain and were able to return fully to their daily activities. For 85 percent, the improvement was noted after three weeks of treatment. After an average of almost two years, the pain has not recurred for these people.

Four people had significant improvement, but still had slight discomfort with strenuous exercise. Six people had no improvement. Of those, four had previous spine surgery, one had a rare brain malformation, and one did have improvement after quitting a stressful job.

Source: Eurekalert & others

Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Feb 2009
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