Spinal pain is one of the most disabling health care disorders and commonly reported in dentists, with 50% reporting neck pain and 30% back pain. Historically spinal pain has been thought to be caused by damage or degeneration of the spine, weakness of the core muscles and or ‘poor’ posture. However there is little strong evidence to support these beliefs. In contrast, there is growing evidence that spinal pain is complex and is influenced by a combination of factors such as genetics, gender, poor sleep patterns, inactivity, stress, muscle tension and low mood. Persistent and disabling spinal pain is associated with unhelpful beliefs and behaviours that drive fear, distress, sensitisation, protective guarding and avoidance.
A cognitive functional approach provides a personalised evidence based understanding of spinal pain, pain control strategies to enable people to build confidence to engage with painful, feared and avoided valued activities and addresses unhelpful lifestyle behaviours. There is growing evidence that this approach results in larger long-term benefits over traditional approaches.
Professor Peter O’Sullivan is a professor at the School of Physiotherapy and Exercise Science, Curtin University, WA and works as a Specialist Musculoskeletal Physiotherapist (awarded by the Australian College of Physiotherapists in 2005) at Bodylogic Physiotherapy, Shenton Park, WA.
He and his team conduct clinical research investigating the life course, underlying mechanisms and targeted management of persistent and disabling musculoskeletal pain disorders.
With his team, he has developed an integrated person centred management approach for disabling musculoskeletal pain disorders called ‘cognitive functional therapy’. He has published over 200 papers and numerous book chapters with his team in international peer review journals, has been an invited speaker at more than 90 National and International conferences and has run clinical workshops in over 24 countries. Peter’s passion is translating research into clinical practice.