Pain pills don’t stand up to pain-blocking remedies

If you’ve ever suffered from chronic lower back pain, you know it can be debilitating. So debilitating, in fact, that it is the leading cause of disability in the U.S.

When chronic lower back pain is preventing you from living your life, it’s tempting to rely on heavy-duty painkillers and steroid injections just to get some relief. But what if there was a safer, side-effect free way to get your life back?

Well, it turns out, there is… a recent study conducted by the Group Health Research Institute in Seattle found that two techniques — mindfulness-based stress reduction and cognitive behavioral therapy — were more effective treatments for chronic lower back pain than the usual treatments doled out by your doctor.

For those of you who don’t already know, mindfulness-based stress reduction is a practice that involves staying present and accepting the sensations and feelings you experience in the moment — including the uncomfortable ones. Cognitive behavioral therapy is a psychotherapy treatment that teaches you to change the thoughts and behaviors related to your pain.

The results of the study showed that 44 percent of participants practicing mindfulness-based stress reduction experienced an improvement in pain after 26 weeks, while only 27 percent of those receiving the usual ‘doctor care’ experienced results that good.

And cognitive behavioral therapy was shown to be even more effective in pain reduction than both mindfulness-based stress reduction and conventional care — with 45 percent of those practicing cognitive behavioral therapy experiencing an improvement in their pain.

The study also measured how each therapy impacted participants’ functional limitations (ability to perform daily activities). And once again mindfulness-based stress reduction and cognitive behavioral therapy came out on top…

  • 61 percent of those practicing mindfulness-based stress reduction saw improvement,
  • 58 percent of those practicing cognitive behavioral therapy saw improvement,
  • Compared to just 44 percent of those who received the usual care seeing any improvement.

So it seems, in the fight to stop chronic lower back pain, your mind is your best ally. But you may still be wondering how you can use this knowledge right now to get rid of your back pain…

Although cognitive behavioral therapy usually requires the help of a mental health counselor, mindfulness-based stress reduction includes techniques like yoga and mindfulness meditation —practices you can easily learn by renting a book or DVD from your local library, try a video (like this one recommended by Dr. Wiley)  or taking a class with a professionally-trained teacher. Just proceed with caution when starting a yoga practice, so you don’t accidentally make your back pain worse.

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Jenny Smiechowski

By Jenny Smiechowski

Jenny Smiechowski is a Chicago-based freelance writer who specializes in health, nutrition and the environment. Her work has appeared in online and print publications like Chicagoland Gardening magazine, Organic Lifestyle Magazine, BetterLife Magazine,, and