Health Coaching for Back Pain

Is it Viable?

Woman rubbing aching back
Tom Merton / Getty Images

Health coaching for your back? Is that possible?  Can it work?

A quick search on Facebook will show you that the health coaching is very popular these days. The social network is resplendent with images of colorful vegetables and exercising people, and you don't have to look far to find an online challenge around juice fasting, sit ups, weight loss, and similar topics.

But what about health coaching for your back?

Can that help you relieve pain and do more?

As a health coach certified by the American Council on Exercise with a lot of experience working with spine pain, I believe that this area is very much in its infancy. I also believe it stands a good chance of making it in the marketplace itself in the coming years. Here is my thinking on spinal health coaching.

Health coaching is in its infancy.

Let's face it, weight loss is most likely the biggest consumer health trend out there. So when it comes to health coaching, the big push is for diet and nutrition. (These topics lend themselves well to beautiful photography, too.)

A 2014 review on health coaching for back pain published in the International Journal of Clinical Practice found that estimates as to the effectiveness of health coaching on back pain improvement were uncertain. One reason why researchers were unable to prove or disprove the value of health coaching for back pain was the variety of interventions the health coaches in the studies gave to their clients.

With too many interventions, it's difficult if not impossible to compare them. Another reason was that the health coaches didn't necessarily stick with the plan they outlined at the beginning of the study. And finally, the reviewers report that the quality of evidence they did find was very low.

Related:  Medical Procedures Not Always Effective - Establishment Forces Acknowledge They Don't Have the Answer.

What does a health coach do, anyway?

To determine if spinal health coaching is a viable route to chronic neck or back pain relief, an understanding of the field of health coaching is in order.

According to the American Council on Exercise (ACE), a trade organization that certifies health coaches (disclaimer: including myself) health coaching is about changing behavior. Some of the tools the health coach uses include goal setting, education, motivation, creating and monitoring exercise programs, giving support and referring you to a medical professional, when that's appropriate. ACE says the contemporary health coach is a partner who helps clients make health and lifestyle changes as well as changes in the "art of living." They define the art of living in terms of 4 things: Your enjoyment of life, your ability to make good health choices, your ability to keep developing yourself and your ability to see the meaning in achieving your health goals.

Related:  What is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy?

I like to see health coaching for back pain as an opportunity to put you in the "driver's seat" when it comes to pain management. In our day and age, even research shows that much low back pain and about 40-60% of neck pain is muscle and/or posture related.

To me this means, there's something you can do about your pain once you are empowered with knowledge around the way your body moves and heals itself. A good back pain health coach can guide you through aligning your body, strengthening your core, breathing, and similar techniques for the relief of chronic pain.


Holden J1, Davidson M, O'Halloran PD. Int J Clin Pract. Health coaching for low back pain: a systematic review of the literature. Aug 2014

Tuckson, Reed. V. MD, FACP. Executive Vice President and Chief of Medical Affairs, United Health care. PowerPoint Presentation: Where Are We In Health Care: Prevention, Cost, Quality and Efficiency. National Conference of State Legistors. June 2008.

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