Effect of Pain Reprocessing Therapy vs Placebo and Usual Care for Patients With Chronic Back Pain: A Randomized Clinical Trial
Can a psychological treatment based on the reappraisal of primary chronic back pain as due to nondangerous central nervous system processes provide substantial and durable pain relief?
In this randomized clinical trial, 33 of 50 participants (66%) randomized to 4 weeks of pain reprocessing therapy were pain-free or nearly pain-free at posttreatment, compared with 10 of 51 participants (20%) randomized to placebo and 5 of 50 participants (10%) randomized to usual care, with gains largely maintained through 1-year follow-up. Treatment effects on pain were mediated by reduced beliefs that pain indicates tissue damage, and longitudinal functional magnetic resonance imaging showed reduced prefrontal responses to evoked back pain and increased resting prefrontal-somatosensory connectivity in patients randomized to treatment relative to patients randomized to placebo or usual care.
Psychological treatment focused on changing beliefs about the causes and threat value of primary chronic back pain may provide substantial and durable pain relief.