The outdated belief that is prolonging back pain

'Broken machine' thinking promotes avoidance behaviour

Many patients languish with persistent lower back pain because they are encouraged to believe their condition is due to an irreversible mechanical defect, Australian researchers say.

While evidence shows back pain is often transient and reversible, most patients hold to the traditional perceptions of their condition being due to anatomical problems with the spine, joints, tendons or trapped nerves, a Queensland study of 130 patients has found.

Patients’ beliefs on lower back pain were overwhelmingly negative, with strongly held perceptions that the ‘physical defect’ was permanent and likely to degenerate further, according to researchers from the University of Queensland.

Few patients acknowledged that persistent back pain could have complex non-physical causes or that it was potentially modifiable, the study showed. 

The simplistic 'broken machine' concept of back pain could lead