Chronic Low Back Pain and Research

yay-6933066neck painful manChronic Low Back Pain Relief

If you have had back pain from a recent tweak (who hasn’t?), it often gets better without treatment. Chronic low back pain is different. Many people find relief from massage. This has more and more support from research. In one study testing non-pharmaceutical options for low back pain, the massage group “used the least medications…and had the lowest costs of subsequent care.” (Journal of American Medical Association).

In research of sessions for various body areas, massage scored higher than chiropractic, acupuncture, exercise, patient education and progressive relaxation for low back pain. The best, most cost-effective results involved massage in 6-10 sessions, once a week for chronic low back pain. (Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine).

Other Treatments, Other Benefits

However, some studies show that massage combined with other treatments can help even more. For example, one German study of acupressure and pressure point massage showed more benefits than Swedish massage for low back pain. In most of these studies, the massage group used less pain medications compared to other treatments.

Biopsychosocial model of pain–it’s held by the brain

When there is an injury, the brain responds to what it perceives as a threat. It sends a signal of pain to protect you from further injury. This protective process is normal. However, sometimes the brain doesn’t realize that the threat is over. Perhaps there are additional layers of emotional trauma. Or perhaps the injury triggered a cascade of memories that the brain interprets as an ongoing threat.

Sometimes, we don’t even know why the brain still signals pain. But the latest pain science recognizes that multiple influences shape the pain experience. Physical injury, emotional pain, our habits, the ways we think and our personal history can all play a part. From that research, there are now strategies that address the multi-factorial experience of pain. This is called the biopsychosocial model, or the new pain science. It uses awareness of the brain’s role in maintaining pain, and looks for ways to create a sense of safety so that the brain can turn down the pain volume.

Solutions: Imagination, Movement and Mind-Body Approaches

The psychosocial aspects of pain mean that some mind-body approaches have proven to be very effective. Lorimer Moselely’s and David Butler’s books can provide a road map out of chronic pain, for patients and clinicians alike. Graded Motor Imagery Handbook, and Explain Pain (why pain can persist after tissues have healed) and Painful Yarns are great resources. They include visualization exercises that train the brain to release the “danger” alerts.

These exercises also target anxiety. Relief of anxiety decreases the perception of threat. So it may then decrease the pain experience. In fact, anxiety comes from the same area of the brain that naturally inhibits pain signalling. When you change the brain, you change the pain.

Even better, the latest research consistently shows improvements from exercise. Even if it’s not very much at first, or for very long, movement and exercise seem to tell the brain to ease up on pain signals. Setting small goals and building up is the best way to go. The eventual improvement in function and resilience, even for someone with chronic low back pain can be significant.

Mindfulness is another resource to calm the mind and emotions. And it has shown some promise for easing the experience of pain. In 1979, Jon Kabat Zinn founded the Stress Reduction Clinic at University of Massachusetts Medical School to teach mindfulness and bring it into the medical mainstream. His program, Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) includes modules for beginners. You can find excellent online MBSR courses or CD’s and ones specifically for pain. Group sessions, or private therapists may also teach MBSR.

Ortho-Bionomy treatment of low back painOrtho-Bionomy® and Research

Ortho-Bionomy® is based on osteopathic principles, and respects the body’s self-healing capacity. It uses tender point palpation and the client’s awareness to determine how to position the body for release. Three of my own research case reports include Ortho-Bionomy®: 2016 Poster Session AMTA Convention Abstracts.

There has been some research on components of Ortho-Bionomy®. For example, there are mind-body benefits from subtle rhythms of CranioSacral. And Craniosacral has shown research benefits for low back pain. There has been some research on honoring the body’s inherent self corrective reflexes in Strain-Counterstrain, aka Positional Release. In addition, gentle Isometric and Isotonic exercises allows the body to release out of chronic pain patterns for the back, shoulder, jaw and neck. These all can be part of an Ortho-Bionomy® session.

Integration Massage provides Ortho-Bionomy® as a first choice for pain. Next, I may combine exercises and visualization with subtle movements which trigger your body’s self-corrective reflexes. I may follow that with other bodywork strategies that bring emotional relief. I adapt every session to your needs, and partner with you to figure out what can work best from research, my skills and your experience of your body.

To discuss your specific needs, call 503-708-2911.

Or, you may schedule an appointment at a time of your convenience here: Schedule Appointment

Ortho-Bionomy® is a registered trademark of the Society of Ortho-Bionomy® International, and is used with permission.

2 Replies to “Chronic Low Back Pain and Research”

  1. Pam Buseck

    Hey I just heard about CHIROPRACTIQUE urban retreat at 2301 El Cajon Blvd, San Diego, CA 92104 there number is (619) 269-9909 I wanted to know, have any of you men completed any business with them before because my back continues to be killing me and I wanted an honest opinion.

  2. Integration Massage Post author

    Hi, Pam,
    Thank you for your comment. My massage practice is in Portland, Oregon, and I am not familiar with treatment options in San Diego. There is an Ortho-Bionomy® instructor, Jim Berns, who teaches in San Diego, and he could give you some referrals to practitioners who might meet your needs. You can reach him at:


    Hoping your back starts adding good energy to your life soon!