What is the BioPsychoSocial Model

The BioPsychoSocial Model addresses the problem of back pain (or any kind of health issues) in three ways: Bio (biological) refers to biological, physical, or medical aspects of the pain such as injury; Psycho (psychological) refers to the way you react to it and how it affects your emotions and behaviours; and Social refers to how social pressures affect your symptoms. In this model, Pain is surrounded by Attitudes and Beliefs, Psychological Distress, Illness Behaviour, and Social Environment. These are the things that have to be addressed in order to identify the best approach to treatment as all these aspects have an effect on pain and recovery.


biopsychosocial model

The BioPsychoSocial Model has six basic elements:

1. Sensory – This basically refers to the physical sensation of the pain in four dimensions:

  • Location – Which part of the body is the symptom being experienced.
  • Intensity -How severe the symptom is, ranging from 1 to 10, or from mild to excruciating.
  • Quality – The type of pain, whether it is a dull, achy, stabbing, burning, or sharp kind.
  • Time – How long the pain has been present

2. Emotional – This refers to how you respond to the symptom emotionally; whether or not it makes you feel anxious, depressed, worried, discouraged, irritable, angry, or scared.

3. Mental – This refers to how aware you are of the sensation, your expectations regarding the condition, and how you think you can cope with it. This also includes your thoughts about it, your decision-making process, and your attitude towards it.

4. Behavioural – This refers to the things you do in response to your condition. For some, pain affects their physical activities, routine activities, and habits. It sometimes affects social interactions, which can have a great effect, both mentally and emotionally.

5. Environment – This refers to your surroundings or physical environment, which has an effect on your awareness and ability to cope with the symptoms. This includes the weather, house, furniture, and availability of material resources.

6. Social Environment – This refers to your family, friends, physicians, and other people who can affect or be affected by your symptoms.


These elements interact with one another and can directly affect each other in two ways; in positive or negative cycles.

Positive Cycle –  Pain can have an effect on your emotions and physical sensations but you can control its effect through shifting your thoughts and your attitudes towards the pain and your body.

Negative Cycle – These elements can interact in a negative way. For instance, Sensory (or pain sensation) can decrease physical activity (behaviour). With decreased physical activity, depression (emotional) may occur, which can result to decreased self-worth and motivation (mental). This cycle could go in many different ways and can greatly affect your condition.

Chiropractors, physiotherapists and osteopaths are beginning to take into account the biopsychosocial model in their practices, and those that do are more effective. 

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