Cognitive Functional Therapy

We empower people to achieve their goals.

How does Cognitive functional therapy work?

Your story is the key. Most of the critical information about your condition is in your story. It’s a bit like a person who brings in a jigsaw puzzle with all the pieces present, but they don’t know what the picture looks like. Our job is to work with you to find the place for all the pieces of your puzzle, to help you make sense of it (make the picture clear).

First, we take time (1 hour for the first consult) to hear your story. We are interested in:

Assessing your body and how it functions:

Based on all this information we will develop a treatment plan:

1. Making sense of pain

First, we will sit down and help you understand why you have pain and all the factors that are contributing to it. We will help you come up with different ways of thinking and responding to pain that can put you in charge of the pain. We will develop a plan to reach your goals and get you back to living again.

We will also direct you to resources to help you better understand your pain condition.

2. Confidence in moving and living

We will develop an exercise program that is specific to you, your unique presentation, your functional capacity and pain levels, as well as your level of confidence and your goals. We will start slowly and build the program up to get you confident to move, load and strengthen your body. We will help you find ways of moving that reduce your pain and put you in charge. These exercises are functionally orientated and linked to your goals to help build your confidence to get back to living in the way you want. We will teach you ways that you can adapt and integrate to your every-day life.

For example, with back pain it is very common that people lose confidence in their ability to bend and lift, limiting their ability to dress, garden, and play with kids etc. Usually the muscles in the back and belly over-tense – a bit like clenching the fist. This makes movement both stiff and painful. We will first teach you to relax, and learn to move in ways that don’t hurt in order to slowly build your strength, confidence and capacity to bend and lift again. We will then help you integrate this into your activities of daily living.

3. Adopting a healthy lifestyle

Regular movement and physical activity is so important for our mental and physical health. Finding ways to move and engage in activities that you enjoy – participating in social activities are so helpful when dealing with pain. This can be anything from walking, riding a bike, dancing, yoga, swimming, Pilates, running or gym work. We will coach you to achieve your goals. All exercise is helpful, and the best exercise is whatever you find enjoyable and will keep doing. Exercise is like a drug – you need enough to get the benefits. For pain, at least 150 minutes per week is recommended.

Sleep is so important for the nervous system, immune system and mental health, and yet sleep disruption is a key problem when living with pain. We will explore with you regarding your sleep habits, your ability to relax, move and posture yourself in bed. Simple strategies can often be very effective.

Stress management is a key component of pain management. Stress can manifest itself in the body, making it more sensitive and tense. We can coach you on body relaxation, breathing and mindfulness techniques. There is strong evidence that these techniques provide relaxation, pain relief and a positive feeling of well-being.

Healthy eating is also important for managing many pain conditions. There is growing evidence of the negative impact that carrying excessive belly fat can have on the body’s tissues via increased inflammation. Reducing belly fat can reduce pain relating to arthritis and tendinopathy.

How long does it take to work?

For some people this journey may be short while for others it can take a longer time. Usually we expect to see you between 4-8 times over a period of 12 weeks depending on the level of complexity. We will space these times out as you develop more control over your pain and reach your goals. It’s really important that you tell us if you feel we are pushing you too hard or not hard enough. Some people may need ongoing support depending on their presentation. What if my pain flares-up?

During and after treatment pain flare-ups are very common. They often occur when people are tired, run down, unwell, stressed, not sleeping or when you are inactive or do unaccustomed activity. It’s very important to have an action plan to effectively manage flare-ups and to get on top of them fast to get back on track. We are here to support you in this process. They can be great opportunities to learn.

How about the other people in my health care team?

Working with other people in your health care team gives you the best outcome. It’s so important that everyone in your health team works together and have shared and common goals. If you give us permission we will work with your team ie. GP, psychologist, dietician, or personal trainer to support you.

What kind of pain conditions can Cognitive Functional Therapy help?

Most of our research to date has been conducted on people with chronic low back pain, however we have also adapted this approach for people with joint pain, nerve pain, tendon pain and widespread pain. We are currently doing research in these areas.

What is the evidence for pain conditions?

There are now a number of clinical studies demonstrating that Cognitive Functional Therapy can result in long term reductions in pain and disability compared to other interventions. Importantly it is not a cure for all – however many people who undergo the intervention report greater pain control, less need for medication, treatment and feel like they are able to get back to living again. There is also evidence for improved confidence and mental health. The key to success is that we put you in charge of this journey. 

Additional Resources

What is cognitive functional therapy? How can it reduce low back pain and get you moving? 


Our people and our thinking is what sets us apart. We are researchers, lecturers, students and coaches. When you work with Body Logic Physiotherapy, you get access to a whole lot more.



We work with many people, regardless of where they are in their journey.
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