In collaboration with Keck School of Medicine

Treating Chronic Low Back Pain with Functional Restoration Programs

Woman experiences chronic low back pain with hopes the functional restoration programs will help provide relief

This article was originally published on Confronting Chronic Pain by Dr. Steven Richeimer, Director Pain Medicine Master and Certificate.

Chronic low back pain is one of the most common pain conditions that keep people from working. Those who suffer from this type of condition experience paraspinal muscle fatiguability, which prevents them from living their life the way they want.

Researchers continue to seek out new ways to help relieve chronic low back pain, including finding ways that will help make it easier for them to get back to work.

Treating Chronic Pain with a Functional Restoration Program

A new study published in the June 2020 issue of the Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness shared the findings of researchers who set out to evaluate the benefits of a four-week functional restoration program [1]. The program was designed to help those with chronic low back pain and determine if it would be beneficial in helping them go back to work.

Related Reading: Pain Education May Help Patients Manage Chronic Back Pain

The study included 22 patients who have chronic low back pain. Half of them were female and half were male. They investigated their paraspinal muscle aerobic metabolism before and after they participated in the functional restoration program.

The main component of the program was exercise therapy. They evaluated if the enhancements in the condition of each participant was associated with changes in metabolism responses.

Once the participants completed the four-week program, they were evaluated. Three months later, there were 12 patients who were seen for follow-up visits. During that visit, there were numerous exercises performed to evaluate the participants’ progress and measure their pulmonary gas exchanges and paraspinal muscle oxygenation. Additionally, those being evaluated participated in a questionnaire to evaluate physical and psychosocial factors.

Related Reading: Flexible Coping Strategies May Help with Chronic Pain & Depression

All Participants Experienced Relief

At the end of the program, the researchers found that all of the participants had seen improvement. Those who participated in a three-month follow-up remained stable, with the exception of the paraspinal muscle oxygenation.

They found that when it came to returning to work, the improvements that had been made in the patients’ physical condition were not associated with their decision of whether or not to go back to work. Rather, it was socio-psychological factors that influenced whether or not the person returned to work.

When it comes to treating people who suffer from chronic low back pain, it may be beneficial if they engage in a functional restoration program. It’s also a good idea to work on those psychological barriers that may otherwise hold them back, even when there is an improvement in the chronic pain.

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[1] Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness. Benefits of Four-Week Functional Restoration Program in Chronic Low Back Pain Patients. June 2020.

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