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Low back pain 'all in the mind'

Low back pain may be largely psychosomatic, according to a new study.

Research in the journal Spine gave 46 patients MRI scans and psychometric tests, before following them up for four years.

The study found patients' degree of psychological distress predicted their likelihood of suffering recurrent back pain and having time off work.

Dr Graham Davenport, president of the Primary Care Rheumatology Society and a GP in Wrenbury, Cheshire, said: 'It is known that people with psychosocial problems at the outset of low back pain are more likely to progress to chronic pain.'

Dr Davenport said current recommendations advised GPs to assess a patient's bio-psychosocial factors after three months of pain, but he said earlier assessments would help avoid a vicious circle of pain and depression. 'We need to encourage people to remain mobile and to return to work as early as possible,' he added.

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