Chronic Low Back Pain Rehabilitation Programs: A Study of the Optimum Duration of Treatment and a Comparison of Group and Individual Therapy


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Abstract

Study design.Eighty-four patients with chronic low back pain were treated using cognitive behavioral principles on a pain management program. Outcome data were collected at four points: 10 weeks before treatment, immediately before and immediately after treatment, and 6 months after treatment. In part 1 of the study, patients were assigned randomly to group or individual treatment contexts. In part 2 of the study, patients were assigned randomly to programs of 15, 30, or 60 hours duration.Objectives.To identify the differences in outcome between programs that treated patients as part of a group and those that treated patients individually and the effects of duration of treatment on outcome.Summary of Background Data.Cognitive behavioral programs have been shown to be an effective means of managing chronic low back pain. The literature is concerned with group programs, however, the duration of which vary widely.Method.Psychological and functional variables were measured before and after treatment and at the 6-month follow-up visit. Changes in these variables were measured, and comparisons were made between group and individual programs and between 15-, 30-, and 60-hour programs.Results.Data analysis showed a significant, beneficial effect of intervention in terms of the majority of variables; however, these changes were generally independent of whether patients were treated as part of a group or individually and whether patients completed a 15-, 30-, or 60-hour program.Conclusions.Cognitive behavioral rehabilitation programs have been demonstrated to be an effective means of reducing psychological distress, of changing cognition, and of improving the function of patients with chronic low back pain; however, the length of program and whether patients were treated individually or as part of a group did not affect outcome. This finding has clinical and economic implications.

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