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Responses to chronic back pain, part 2: the role of exercise

In the first part of this post, we noted how surgery and other invasive interventions do not necessarily solve the problem of chronic back pain.

For many people in Michigan and across the nation, such pain is a leading cause of disability.

In this part of the post, let’s look in some detail about how regular exercise could help people with chronic pain in their backs cope with their condition.

To be sure, there may be certain circumstances when surgery makes sense. If someone has sciatica (leg pain) associated with a disc problem (bulging or herniated), back surgery may be able to help.

One problem, however, is that all the fancy MRI scans available these days tend to create a sense of medical hubris. The scans can show sections of the spine laid out in charts as never before. But practitioners say that in many cases the eye-catching graphics do not necessarily help identify the actual causes of back pain.

Indeed, National Public Radio reported recently on research suggesting that pain frequently stems not from the shape of the spine, but from the operation of the nervous system.

For many people, then, the key to overcoming back pain may lie in a rigorous exercise program. Indeed, in some areas of the country there are now therapists who are trained in how to deliver boot camp-like rehabilitation sessions that help people on multiple levels.

Such sessions seek not only to improve the flexibility and overall strength of people’s backs. They also seek to encourage people with back pain to move the way they used to move, before the chronic pain occurred.

Source: NPR, "Pain In The Back? Exercise May Help You Learn Not To Feel It," Patti Neighmond and Richard Knox, Jan. 13, 2014

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