Bed Rest Not the Best for Lower Back Pain

Lower back pain can be mysterious. In the majority of cases, the causes are unknown. Sometimes, the physical evidence does not match the presence or absence of pain. There are people who have chronic back pain but do not have any sign of internal damage while some people who have never had back pain discover that they have a bulging vertebral disk or some other structural problem that should be causing them pain.

Some people with very tight hamstrings (believed to be a common cause of back pain) have perfectly normal lower backs while others who have flexible hamstrings have backs that give them trouble.

One thing for sure, lower back pain is a common experience for many people. Someone has even said that it is the price that humans have to pay for walking on two legs.

Here is a small compilation of the latest research on the prevention and treatment of lower back pain. It is not a substitute for medical advice but simply information that lower back pain sufferers may find interesting. Always consult your doctor for the appropriate treatment and therapy for your specific type of lower back problem.

Muscle coordination
Strengthening the abdominal and back muscles has long been a tenet in the treatment of lower back pain. But experts do not agree on which strengthening exercises are the best and some believe that the exercises themselves can put a great amount of pressure on the spinal disks.

Danish researchers discovered that smooth coordination of the back muscles is just as important as having strong and flexible muscles. In their three-month study of 40 people ages 18 to 65 with chronic back pain, those who did special exercises that did not strengthen the back but developed better coordination of the trunk muscles had just as good results in terms of less back pain and better back mobility as the group that did the traditional back strengthening exercises.

If you want to know how to do those coordination exercises, check out the article by Owen Anderson in Sports Injury Bulletin in http://www.sportsinjurybulletin.com/archive/0033-lower-back-pain.htm.

Medium firm mattress
A 2003 study published in The Lancet found that medium firm mattresses were better at relieving lower back pain while lying in bed and upon rising than firm mattresses. This is contrary to the common belief that firm hard mattresses are the best. (Spring mattresses were used in the three-month study so results could be different for other types of mattresses).

On a scale of 1 –10 with 10 being the softest, medium firm mattresses had a rating of 5-6 while the firm mattresses had a rating of 2-3. Neither the participants nor the researchers knew who got which type of mattress.

In a review of the study, Dr. Richard Glickman-Simon wrote, “Since you spend about one-third of your life lying down on a mattress, it makes sense that the type of mattress you have could affect your lower back”.

Forgiveness & Depression
It has been documented that chronic pain can lead to depression but a 2003 University of Alberta study found that the opposite can also be true. Researchers discovered that people with depression are four times as likely to develop severe neck and lower back pain than people who are not depressed.

Meanwhile, a 2004 Duke University study found that among chronic back pain sufferers, those who had issues with unforgiveness had higher levels of pain and had more anger and depression than people who were more forgiving.

Back botox
The average person associates botox or botulinum toxin injections with wrinkles but botox has long been used to control muscle overactivity. It has also been found effective in helping migraines and keeping excessively sweaty armpits and hands dry.

According to a study presented at the 2000 Meeting of the American Academy of Neurology, botox injections may also help relieve chronic mechanical lower back pain. The study was double-blind and placebo-controlled meaning neither the doctors nor the patients knew who was getting the fake or the real injections.

At three weeks, 11 of the 14 treated patients experienced 50 percent pain relief compared to only 4 of the 14 placebo patients.

Bed rest not the best
Way back in 1986, a study had already found that lower back patients who were given two-days of bed rest recovered just as fast as those who were given four days. Then, a 1995 study found that patients who were told to continue with their usual daily activities (with pain being their guide) got better faster than those who were told to rest in bed for two days.

It is studies like these that are the basis for the current recommendation to avoid complete bed rest.

Keep on moving
A 1999 study published in Spine wanted to find out which exercise program was best for the lower back. The participants were divided into three formats done twice a week for 12 weeks: Physical therapy exercises, muscle conditioning exercises, and low impact aerobics.

To the surprise of the researchers, all three programs improved pain relief, pain frequency, and ability to do daily tasks This study suggests that for chronic back pain sufferers, simply staying physically active may do the trick. Of course, you have to choose an activity that will not aggravate your lower back problem.

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