The effectiveness of psychological interventions for the rehabilitation of low back pain: a randomized controlled trial evaluation

Elizabeth M. Altmaier*, Thomas R. Lehmann, Daniel W. Russell, James Neil Weinstein, Feng Kao Chuan Feng Kao

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    16 Scopus citations


    Forty-five low back pain patients were randomly assigned to either a standard inpatient rehabilitation program or the standard program with additional psychological components. The standard program emphasized education, support, and physical reconditioning through exercise. Patients receiving the psychological program were given additional training in relaxation and other coping skills and received contingent reinforcement for exercise. Both programs included reduction of medication intake and an emphasis on family involvement after discharge. Measures of functional status were taken prior to the program, at discharge from the 3-week inpatient program, and at a 6-month follow-up appointment. These data revealed that patients improved their overall functioning at discharge and maintained these gains at the follow-up assessment. A similar pattern of findings was obtained for self-reported pain and interference. Furthermore, 81% of the patients had returned to work or were engaged in active job retraining by the follow-up. Using a conservative measure of full-time return to the same or an equivalent job, 57% were employed by the follow-up. Patient improvement, however, was not differentially affected by treatment group assignment, suggesting that the psychological treatment failed to add to the effectiveness obtained by the standard rehabilitation program. Results are discussed in the context of improving patient outcomes from rehabilitation for low back pain.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)329-335
    Number of pages7
    Issue number3
    StatePublished - Jun 1992


    • Biofeedback
    • Coping skills
    • Educational reconditioning
    • Low back pain
    • Operant conditioning
    • Physical treatment
    • Relaxation

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Neurology
    • Clinical Neurology
    • Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine


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