Conservative Approach and Exercise Missing from Back Pain Treatments Worldwide

In a groundbreaking study published in the journal The Lancet, a professor of physical therapy at the University of Alberta says that most people around the world who are experiencing back pain are not getting the right kind of treatment.

According to Professor Doug Gross, far too many people are handling their back pain by retreating to their couches and beds and popping pain pills. Instead, he says, they should keep moving and exercising. He also makes clear that people are right to seek medical treatment from spine specialists when they have suffered an injury, are experiencing pain that doesn’t go away or gets worse, or includes symptoms such as numbness, tingling, weakness, or sciatica.

Gross’ recommended approach is in keeping with the treatment protocols that we offer here at our spine specialty practice in New Jersey. Barring emergent physical conditions, we always start with a conservative approach, offering physical therapy, an exercise program and lifestyle changes to help relieve back pain symptoms. It is only when these protocols fail that we turn to more aggressive treatments like injections and minimally invasive surgery, which have provided effective relief for many of our patients. Still, remaining active and including regular exercise in your daily routine is an essential element of protecting yourself against back pain.

The study revealed that many people turn to bed rest or medication when the best option is activity: “You don’t rest,” he says. “You don’t become immobilized. We tend to view back pain as something serious,” he continues, explaining that people are afraid that movement will make their pain worse. He says that though it makes sense to limit movement for a short period of time in response to pain, that is not the same as cutting back on all activities, despite the fear of recurring pain.

“What we know is that about 80% of new back pain episodes do recover and are better within a matter of weeks,” he says, and there is considerable research showing that when people exercise regularly and include simple stretches in their daily routine, it can play an important protective role. Responding to trauma or injury is an entirely different story, and contacting a spine specialist in these instances is both appropriate and recommended.

Professor Gross says that one of the problems is that we have been conditioned to associate pain with illness. “The pain can be severe,” he says. It can be awful. It can be really horrible. And we’ve been conditioned that when we have pain like that, it’s got to be something serious.” The truth is that by getting up and moving as we did when we felt normal, we are much more likely to start feeling better sooner. And if we don’t feel better, then it’s time to consult with a professional.

If you are experiencing chronic back pain, or have hurt yourself and need care from a specialist, contact our spine practice in New Jersey today to set up a convenient appointment.

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