Approximately 80% of individuals experience low back pain in their lifetime, making it the leading cause of years lived with disability world-wide. It’s the most common condition we treat for our patients here at Orthology.

And while we know how common low back pain is, and how much it can disrupt our day-to-day activities, new research published this fall in the journal BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders is diving into just how deeply it affects all areas of our lives—including our mental health. 

All types of pain, but in particular back pain, significantly affect us. Although research tells us that back pain doesn’t necessarily lead to sick days taken or time out of work, it does significantly impact how we show up when we are at work. Pain is distracting—it affects your ability to execute day-to-day responsibilities effectively and, more dangerously, impacts your ability to concentrate, which can in turn lead to mistakes and further injury.

When we’re constantly experiencing pain or anticipating the threat pain, we become continually vigilant of pain sensations, which, in turn, can cause even normally low-pain sensations to become unbearable

As a result, we often begin to avoid any activities that may cause pain, developing into a vicious cycle in which fear contributes to avoidance of activities that bring us joy—like recreational or family activities—which then can lead to depression, distress, physical inactivity, and greater disability. 

Is there anything that can be done to break the cycle of fear-avoidance behavior, or keep it from developing in the first place? 

Research on this topic, especially as it relates to pain, is still new. Many studies recommend starting with common mental health strategies that can help identify and cope with instances of fear-avoidance behaviors.

One such intervention is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), which focuses on challenging and changing behaviors, improving emotional regulation and developing coping strategies that target specific problems.

Working with your Orthology-affiliated physical therapist or chiropractor can help, too. Each physician is trained in Explain Pain, a type of CBT. And, as experts in musculoskeletal health and movement, your Orthology provider can help keep you moving safely and comfortably as you work towards recovery from your pain or injury, so you can continue enjoying day-to-day activities.