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University of Oxford

Cognitive Behavioural Skills to Treat Back Pain: The Back Skills Training (BeST) Programme

University of Oxford via FutureLearn

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Understand a cognitive behavioural approach to manage ongoing low back pain

The Back Skills Training (BeST) programme focuses on ‘undoing’ beliefs about low back pain, and provides skills to become more active, despite pain. The programme was developed by experts in psychology, physiotherapy, cognitive-behavioural therapy, and people with long-standing low back pain. According to a rigorous clinical trial, the BeST programme produces long term reductions in people’s pain and disability and is a very cost effective treatment.

On this course you will explore the BeST programme, examining the causes of persistent low back pain, and the cognitive behavioural approach.

This course is approved by the British Psychological Society for the purposes of Continuing Professional Development for healthcare professionals. It is an unfacilitated course designed for healthcare professionals with a role or interest in managing patients with low back pain (including nurses, occupational therapists, physiotherapists and psychological therapists).

It will also be useful for students training to become healthcare professionals. The Certificate of Achievement for this course would be useful for providing evidence of CPD.


  • Introduction and Background to the course
    • Meet the course team
    • What is this course?
    • Chronic low back pain
    • Cognitive behavioural interventions
    • Why this approach?
    • Delivery of the BeST programme
  • Understanding the patients perspective
    • Introduction to Week 2
    • The patient's perspective
    • Home exercise planning
    • Questioning techniques
    • Dealing with distress
    • Clinical considerations
  • Group sessions 1 and 2 of the BeST Programme
    • Introduction to Week 3
    • Explaining pain
    • The cognitive behavioural model of activity and pain
    • Group Session 2 of the BeST programme
    • Over and under activity cycling
  • Group sessions 2 and 3 of the BeST Programme
    • Introduction to Week 4
    • Skills taught in the BeST programme
    • Thoughts, feelings and behaviours
    • Bringing it together
  • Group Sessions 4 and 5 of the BeST Programme
    • Introduction to Week 5
    • Fear of movement
    • Relaxation
    • Worrying about pain
    • Further relaxation techniques
  • Group Session 6 and Bringing it all together
    • Introduction to Week 6
    • Dealing with flare-ups
    • Revisiting topics with BeST participants
    • Key clinical skills
    • Bringing it all together

Taught by

Pippa Nicolson


5.0 rating, based on 1 Class Central review

4.6 rating at FutureLearn based on 62 ratings

Start your review of Cognitive Behavioural Skills to Treat Back Pain: The Back Skills Training (BeST) Programme

  • A very practical course, with downloadable resources for facilitating a 1:1 interview and 6 weekly group sessions for participants with persistent low-back pain. Teaching was a combination of reading with short videos of a group session illustrating the skill being taught.

    The course is surprisingly simple but, as a physio, I can see the value in the cognitive-behavioural approach for people who have lingering back pain.

    Although the course is aimed at health professionals, I think it would be useful for someone with back pain, or their friend/relative. It might even make the basis of a support group.

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