Back Sense Research

We recognize that delivering so much good news about what has often been considered to be an intractable medical problem may strain credibility. Common sense suggests that chronic back pain must be caused by serious injuries or abnormalities, requiring medical interventions and/or time to heal. Furthermore, contradicting prevailing medical practice quite naturally raises suspicions of quackery. By all means remain skeptical, but consider the rather astonishing findings of some recent highly regarded scientific studies:

  • The New England Journal of Medicine reports that most healthy people, who have never experienced back pain at all, have the very same displaced disks and other spinal abnormalities that have traditionally been blamed for chronic back pain.

  • After spinal abnormalities are surgically repaired, many back pain patients continue to report their original symptoms. At the same time, the backs of other patients with identical symptoms appear completely normal when viewed with CT scans and MRI’s.
  • The Journal of the American Medical Association reports that back surgeries conducted in the past, before we had CT scans and MRI’s, often found nothing out of place. Surgeons simply sewed patients up again because there was nothing to repair. These so-called “negative surgical explorations” cured patients’ symptoms more than 40% of the time.

  • The New England Journal of Medicine reports that “Back School” programs that teach patients how to sit, lift, bend, and walk properly, do not help to prevent chronic back pain.

  • The New England Journal of Medicine also reports a study from Finland, where workers with back pain recovered most quickly when they simply went on with normal activities, and made no special efforts to heal their backs whatsoever. In fact, bed rest and caution actually interfered with recovery.

  • A major study at the Boeing aircraft company found that job stress was the very best predictor of which employees would develop disabling back pain over a four-year period. Emotional stress was more significant than whether they did heavy lifting, sat for long hours, or were in poor physical condition.
  • A study by psychologists at Yale University, and in Germany, found that the back muscles of back pain patients tense when they are exposed to emotional stress, while the muscles of back pain free individuals do not.

  • A comprehensive review of studies published in the respected medical journal Spine, shows that poor, rural farmers whose backs undergo great physical stress have the lowest incidence of chronic back pain in the world.

Taken together, these studies and many others like them have led to the rapidly developing scientific view of which we have spoken—that most chronic back pain is caused by stress and muscle deconditioning, rather than by defective spinal structures. This realization leads to a very different way of helping patients to get better.

For those interested in a more comprehensive look at the research that underlies the Back Sense program, follow the link below: