Somatic Experiencing for Patients with Low Back Pain and Comorbid Posttraumatic Stress Symptoms – a Randomised Controlled Trial

European Journal of Psychotraumatology

Tonny Elmose Andersen, Hanne Ellegaard, Berit Schiøttz-Christensen, Anna Mejldal &Claus Manniche


Background: Low back pain (LBP) and comorbid post-traumatic stress symptoms (PTSS) are common after traumatic injuries, and a high level of PTSS is associated with more severe pain and pain-related disability. Few randomised controlled trials (RCT) exist targeting comorbid PTSS and chronic pain, and only one has assessed the effect of somatic experiencing.

Objective: The aim of this study was to assess the effect of somatic experiencing (up to 12 sessions) + physiotherapeutic intervention (4-8 sessions) (SE+PT) compared with the physiotherapeutic intervention alone (4-8 sessions) (PT) for pain-related disability in LBP with comorbid PTSS.

Methods: The study was a two-group RCT in which participants (n=114) were recruited consecutively from a large Danish Spine Centre. Patients were randomly allocated to either SE+PT or PT alone. Outcomes were collected at baseline before randomisation, 6 and 12-month post-randomisation. The primary outcome was pain-related disability as measured with the modified version of the Roland Morris Disability Questionnaire at 6-month post-randomisation. Secondary outcomes were PTSS, pain intensity, pain-catastrophising, kinesiophobia, anxiety and depression.

Results: No significant group differences were found on any of the outcomes at any timepoints. Both groups achieved a significant reduction in pain-related disability (20-27%) as measured by the Roland Morris Disability Questionnaire at 6 and 12-month follow up. Also, both groups achieved a small reduction in PTSS.

Conclusions: Although significant effects were achieved for both groups, the additional SE intervention did not result in any additional benefits in any of the outcomes.

Received 24 Jan 2020, Accepted 08 Jul 2020, Published online: 18 Aug 2020

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