A modern neuroscience approach to chronic spinal pain: combining pain neuroscience education with cognition-targeted motor control training

Phys Ther. 2014 May;94(5):730-8. doi: 10.2522/ptj.20130258. Epub 2014 Jan 30.


Chronic spinal pain (CSP) is a severely disabling disorder, including nontraumatic chronic low back and neck pain, failed back surgery, and chronic whiplash-associated disorders. Much of the current therapy is focused on input mechanisms (treating peripheral elements such as muscles and joints) and output mechanisms (addressing motor control), while there is less attention to processing (central) mechanisms. In addition to the compelling evidence for impaired motor control of spinal muscles in patients with CSP, there is increasing evidence that central mechanisms (ie, hyperexcitability of the central nervous system and brain abnormalities) play a role in CSP. Hence, treatments for CSP should address not only peripheral dysfunctions but also the brain. Therefore, a modern neuroscience approach, comprising therapeutic pain neuroscience education followed by cognition-targeted motor control training, is proposed. This perspective article explains why and how such an approach to CSP can be applied in physical therapist practice.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Atrophy
  • Brain / pathology*
  • Brain / physiopathology
  • Chronic Pain / therapy*
  • Communication
  • Exercise Therapy / methods*
  • Failed Back Surgery Syndrome / therapy
  • Humans
  • Low Back Pain / therapy
  • Movement / physiology
  • Muscle, Skeletal / physiopathology
  • Neck Pain / etiology
  • Neck Pain / therapy
  • Neurosciences*
  • Patient Education as Topic*
  • Patient Selection
  • Physical Therapy Modalities*
  • Posture / physiology
  • Whiplash Injuries / complications