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Permanent back pain: psyche plays a crucial role
Everyone knows back pain. For the majority of those affected, the complaints go away within a few weeks. But for some, the pain lasts longer and becomes chronic. Some people are more at risk here than others.
According to experts, almost 80 percent of all Germans suffer from back pain from time to time. In many of them, the pain is chronic. The lives of those affected are enormously affected. As explained in a communication from the Ruhr University Bochum (RUB), the psyche plays a decisive role when acute pain becomes permanent.
Also a psychological phenomenon
The complaints persist in around 35 to 40 percent of all back pain patients. However, the way in which pain is felt and how much it subsequently affects one's life can vary from person to person.
Prof. Dr. Monika Hasenbring has long been concerned with the importance of individual pain processing for the development of chronic complaints.
The head of the Department of Medical Psychology and Medical Sociology at the Ruhr University Bochum (RUB) knows that these are not a purely medical but also a psychological phenomenon.
Different risk groups
Years ago, the expert developed a model for pain processing in which she can assign patients to one of four risk groups. This model helps to adapt suitable forms of diagnosis and therapy to the different risk groups.
As explained in the message, the first group is very anxious about pain and typically interprets it as a symptom of a serious illness.
As a result, these people avoid all possible situations that could possibly trigger the pain. Inactivity and muscle weakness are possible consequences, which in turn promote pain and the negative mood.
Perseverance slogans aggravate the symptoms
The second group includes people who suppress their pain - both mentally and in their behavior. They force themselves to persevere with guidelines such as "don't act like this" or "don't think about pain".
According to the RUB, this is a strategy that does not necessarily have a positive effect, because these people do not take relaxation-promoting breaks. This can also increase the pain here.
The third group includes patients who can distract themselves from the pain. These people manage to maintain a positive mood. However, because they also tend not to take care of their bodies, the symptoms often worsen.
Find the right balance
Only those affected, who can be assigned to the fourth group, manage to reduce their pain through their attitude and behavior.
"These people react very flexibly to the pain," says Monika Hasenbring. "You find a balance between stress and relief and sometimes take breaks, but don't avoid movements," explains the scientist.
Back pain also in competitive athletes
Ms. Hasenbring is currently concerned with the question of whether this model can also be applied to competitive athletes with back pain.
As part of the nationwide interdisciplinary research network Medicine in Spine Exercise, which was sponsored by the Federal Institute for Sports Science under the label “Ran Back”, the scientist compared data from the general population with that of 200 athletes who reported suffering from back pain.
The result of the surveys: Although one might think that competitive athletes have a special relationship with their bodies, they are very similar in terms of their risk factors for the chronification of back pain to the general population and fit into the same model.
"Our findings can help those affected because the cognitive attitude to pain is something that we can change through psychotherapy," says Hasenbring.
"If we can make it clear to the patient what cycle of thoughts and pain intensification they are in, we can also show them solutions to deal better with the situation." (Ad)
Author and source information
This text corresponds to the specifications of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.