Did you know that back pain is one of the most common reasons people go to the doctor? It's true; most Americans have had symptoms of low-back pain at least once in the last three months—which translates into a lot of time and money spent on this major problem. Naturally, the question many people are asking is: How do you ideally overcome back pain or at least prevent it from getting worse? Right now, a fundamental change in the general mindset on this matter is taking place. Both patients and medical professionals are turning away from surgery and painkillers in favor of mind-body therapies.
Why we should all know about non-drug approaches to pain.
These so-called mind-body, or non-pharmacological therapies (e.g., treatments other than drugs) form a wide range of modalities that range from physical exercise to practicing mindfulness or even yoga. So why do experts in guideline committees consider mind-body therapies to be more beneficial than conventional painkillers? First of all, drugs have well-known side effects—ranging from toxicity to organs to addiction—while only a few side effects have been reported for mind-body therapies. So do they actually work? Independent research studies have shown that they are beneficial. For example, practicing mindfulness meditation has been found to be beneficial for pain in several studies. In addition, adopting exercise as part of your pain self-management program is even stronger, as an overview of several studies shows. Only when these kinds of therapies don’t work should drugs be considered in chronic back pain, according to current scientific 2017 guidelines.
Accessibility matters when it comes to alternative treatments.
In addition to conventional mind-body therapies like yoga or mindfulness meditation, there is another kind of treatment modality that focuses on body and mind: multidisciplinary rehabilitation. Multidisciplinary rehabilitation for back pain is developed by health care professionals and combines several concepts. It consists of three pillars: physiotherapy, psychological therapy, and patient education. Multidisciplinary rehabilitation is also recommended by current guidelines as a non-pharmacologic treatment modality for chronic lower-back pain. And studies show it has significant benefits, especially in the long term.
However good, multidisciplinary rehabilitation programs are quite pricey (up to $45,000 for a four-week clinical program). Those therapies have other disadvantages as well: Patients often have to commit full-time for four weeks and typically have to wait for up to two years for an available slot in a therapy group.
How mind-body therapies help you deal with pain.
Research has shown that pain, especially chronic pain, impairs physical, psychological, and social functioning. Our behavior, our way of thinking, and our coping mechanisms have a high impact on the progress and the development of pain. Mind-body therapies consist of physical exercises to strengthen and stabilize the core muscles, exercises in mindfulness (which are proven to improve the ability to cope with stress and stress-triggering events), and general education for a better understanding of pain evolution, treatment, and prevention.
Why technology can democratize the access to mind-body therapy for back pain.
So what can we do to make these mind-body therapies more accessible and affordable? Technology—of course. Startups like Kaia Health are able to reduce the cost of a solid mind-body therapy to $30 per month and the time invested to only 15 minutes each day. If it sounds too good to be true, research has shown promising clinical results. For example, a 43 percent reduction of pain in 20 days.
Developed together with pain management experts, these drug-free treatments are based on the multidisciplinary concept, including physiotherapy exercises, the practice of mindfulness, and pain education. These new technologies digitalize a multidisciplinary approach to pain and put it right in your hands—making it easy and affordable.