“A multidisciplinary approach is the idea of combining a variety of treatment approaches to address a back pain problem.” – Dr. Michael Sinel, Back Pain Remedies for Dummies.
Despite the fact that back pain has a significant impact on the general health of many individuals, our health care system, and society as a whole; this condition is very often treated incorrectly and/or insufficiently (McCarberg et al., 2008). There are many factors that can cause back pain and they go beyond what we can see and feel physically. Stress, emotional and mental wellbeing, chronic illness and lifestyle choices can all affect the health of your back and the pain you feel. The traditional approach to treating back pain has been to:
- Evaluate for area(s) of tenderness and x-ray for any apparent fractures or abnormalities
- Prescribe nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories, pain medications and/or muscle relaxers
- Modify or limit activities/work
- Apply heat or ice to the area
- If mobility is limited, refer to physical therapy
- If pain persists, reevaluate and schedule additional studies (CT scan or MRI) and/or
- Refer to ongoing pain management
Many times, the pain is never completely resolved and becomes a chronic issue. This may be because the true reason for the pain was never addressed. Fortunately, there are other options for the treatment of back pain that go beyond the traditional model.
When you look at all of the different aspects of care that are included in a multidisciplinary treatment model for back pain, it might seem overwhelming and costly. Studies have shown though, that this approach to treatment improves the patient’s overall outcome and is actually more cost effective for long-term care. This holistic approach to care fosters a team approach to address more than just the physical needs of the patient. It typically involves a physical, a psychological and/or a social/work-targeted component. Many practitioners and researches in the medical field refer to this as Multidisciplinary Biopsychosocial Rehabilitation (MBR).
According to an article published in 2015, this approach to pain management is very effective in treating pain, as well as improving physical mobility, emotional well-being, self-esteem and quality of life. The success of this type of care is directly related to treatments tailored to meet the individual patient’s needs. Many of these treatments fall into the category of complementary alternative medicine (CAM) and offer far more options to the patient and the practitioners, to determine what works best. These options can include the following:
- Spinal manipulation
- Physical therapy
Exercise and Movement-
- Aquatic Therapy
- Tai Chi
Cognitive and Behavioral-
- Individual and/or group counseling
- Relaxation techniques (breathing, visualization, meditation)
- Proactive pain control
- Safe body mechanics and ergonomics
- Neuromuscular re-education
- Communication skills
- Functional goal setting
A recent study published in the British Medical Journal, found that MBR programs are more effective than conventional treatment but not enough practitioners are considering this approach for their patients. Today we live in a society that is facing an enormous crisis related to opioid abuse/misuse and many people that experience back pain are looking for alternative forms of treatment. Despite the potential benefits of many of these treatments, CAM continues to be misunderstood and/or unavailable in many communities. If you have been looking for alternative treatment options to alleviate back pain, then this multidisciplinary approach may be of interest you.
If you have chronic neck or back pain and want to consider stress as a possible cause you may want to read “Healing Back Pain” by John Sarno, M.D or you can contact Michael Sinel, M.D. directly at michaelsinel.net.
Michael Sinel, M.D.
Board Certified Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Physician
Assistant Clinical Professor, UCLA Department of Medicine
Dr. Sinel is an expert in stress-related back pain and mind/body medicine. He also has obtained certifications as a yoga therapist and mindfulness-based stress reduction instructor. Dr. Sinel is a proponent of using alternative methods to help patients overcome the pain and loss of mobility from spinal disorders and chronic pain syndromes.
Dr. Sinel has authored two widely read books: “Back Pain Remedies for Dummies” and “Win the Battle Against Back Pain.”
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