Page last updated at 11:20 GMT, Friday, 30 April 2010 12:20 UK

Health Check: Horticultural therapy


Therapists at a London hospital have taken patients out into the garden to teach them techniques to manage chronic pain

Four out of five people in industrialised countries will experience back pain at some stage in their lives.

Smoking and being overweight increase the risk of developing back pain - as well as heavy lifting, frequent bending and twisting. Most people will get better within 6 weeks. But for a few people, relief doesn't come - they suffer from chronic pain.

The garden at London's Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital might sound like an unusual place for therapy - but here the Horticultural Therapist Viv Williamson helps patients to learn to pace themselves, to avoid a flare-up of their pain.

She uses a timer to remind the patients to change position and start a new task. Good posture and special lightweight tools also help to make gardening easier.

Dr Jan Gawronski, who's a consultant in rehabilitation medicine understands how chronic pain can lead people into a downward spiral, so they struggle to cope with normal life. He hopes to restore their confidence and teach them that they can still enjoy life.

They also learn about the Pain Gate theory - where distractions can help to stop pain "messages" getting through, hopefully reducing the need for high doses of painkilling drugs.

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