Bio-Psychosocial Model of Back Pain

If you are trying to get control of your back pain there are five important things to consider:

  • improve your posture
  • increase flexibility and movement
  • improve your general fitness
  • strengthen up your core muscles
  • eat well and don't smoke

But in my opinion the sixth really important point is:

Ensure that you have no unhelpful thoughts and beliefs about your back problem.

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Let me explain a little more about the psychosocial theory and some of the factors that affect it.
The first thing to know is that the science of pain is not straightforward - even experienced medical professions don't understand everything about it. We are learning new things all the time. Over the years our understanding of what causes uncomfortable sensations and makes them last for some people has changed a lot. Many of the things we thought we knew are not true.

Biopsychosocial = How you Think Affects How You Feel

This is the essence of the biopsychosocial model

Bio = biological causes ie strained joints or muscles

Psycho= how you think and feel about your problem

Social = how your family, job, activities impact on you

Studies on people with back problems are showing that unhelpful thoughts and beliefs and social situations can make your back feel much worse.

Up to date thinking challenges some of the things we may take for granted . To begin with I think its worth looking at how we have changed the way we think about the science of pain. If you don't understand how uncomfortable sensations are felt it will be hard to follow how thoughts and feelings can change the way your body responds to pain.

I meet people who are upset and angry because they have been told that their discomfort is all in their minds. This is a mistake and reading a bit more about the biopsychosocial model may help explain why this misunderstanding may have happened.

Yellow Flags and Lower Back Problems

There are some specific psychosocial considerations that have been shown to worsen back problems. A number of thoughts, beliefs and behaviours have been identified that increase your chances of becoming distressed and disabled by chronic lower back problems. These are called yellow flags.

These pages explain what yellow flags are and outline some of the features of a few of them, in particular

If these 'yellow flags' are not addressed then treatment for lower back symptoms is often unsuccessful.

This subject is complex and the bio-psychosocial model is often misunderstood. I would recommend that you try and read all the pages linked to this section so that you have a good overview of up to date thinking and research about the latest science.

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02-Mar-2015

 

 

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