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Study: Cognitive Behavioral Coaching Shown to Improve Functional Ability for More Than Two-Thirds of Study Participants With Low Back Pain

SAN DIEGO (April 5, 2022) – In a recent study published in Pain Management Nursing , cognitive behavioral coaching (CBC) was found to help individuals suffering from low back pain successfully improve functional ability. 

The study found that participants who completed 5-7 remote coaching visits improved their ability to function to a greater degree compared to those who only completed 2-4 sessions. 
Low back pain is one of the most common reasons patients seek medical care in the U.S., and it costs the nation upwards of $12 billion annually in medical costs, disability, and lack of productivity. These results suggest that a telephonic coaching program combined with virtual resources such as self-care pain management videos, articles, how-to tip sheets, personalized Action Plans, and physical activity videos can be successful in improving functionality for participants with low back pain of varying levels of severity and complaints, based on self-reported functional outcomes. Such tools offer a non-surgical, non-pharmaceutical solution to help the millions of people who suffer from low back pain. 

The study, conducted by Cigna health plan with American Specialty Health’s EmpoweredDecisions!™ program, also found that a low back pain radicular diagnosis, or pain that radiates from your back and hips into your legs, doesn’t impact outcomes, as the change in function was similar whether radiculopathy existed or not. This is an important finding as it allows results to be applied to a broader population of individuals with low back pain.

 “The EmpoweredDecisions! CBC study results support that non-invasive, non-pharmaceutical treatments, such as cognitive behavioral coaching with digital resource support, can be effective for lower back pain,” said lead author Jaynie Bjornaraa, Ph.D., MPH, PT, and VP, Rehab Services and Digital Fitness Solutions at American Specialty Health. 

“The study serves as a good guidepost for health plans and employers seeking to reduce their health costs and improve both absenteeism and presenteeism due to lower back pain,” said co-author Cigna’s Dr. David Mino, National Medical Director Orthopaedic Surgery and Spinal Disorders. “This study also reinforces that whole-person health means that one is healthy both physically and mentally. The role that behavioral health care plays in our overall wellness is more important than ever.” 

“The findings are particularly important today as the nation continues to grapple with the opioid epidemic that has challenged the health care industry to seek non-pharmaceutical pain management options,” added co-author Douglas Metz , DC, chief health services officer and executive vice president at American Specialty Health. 

The study, “ Effects of a Remotely-delivered Cognitive Behavioral Coaching Program on the Self-rated Functional Disability of Participants with Low Back Pain ,” (Bjornaraa, J., Bowers, A., Mino, D., Choice, D., Metz, D., Wagner, K., Pain Management Nursing, October 24, 2021) observed the results of a Cognitive Behavioral Coaching program on 423 participants in a workplace environment over three years.

About EmpoweredDecisions!™
The EmpoweredDecisions! program is designed to help those living with pain learn how to better manage symptoms, overcome fear of movement, become more productive, and avoid unnecessary opioid use. The program achieves this through an innovative 3-pronged approach: MSK rehabilitation exercise, cognition behavioral education, and digital and live coaching support. 

About American Specialty Health (ASH) 
American Specialty Health Incorporated (ASH) is one of the nation’s premier independent and privately-owned specialty health organizations offering technology-enabled benefits management services, including musculoskeletal health provider networks and programs, fitness center networks and exercise programs, and health management solutions for health plans, insurance carriers, employers, and others. With offices in Carmel (Indianapolis), IN, San Diego, CA, Fort Worth, TX, and Columbia, SC, ASH has more than 1,500 employees. ASH administers benefits for over 52 million members nationwide and has consumer self-pay programs for over 155 million members. For more information about ASH, visit or call 800-848-3555. Follow us on LinkedIn or Twitter at @ASHCompanies.