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3 Ways to Manage Chronic Back Pain

Posted on 3rd Sep 2011 @ 6:31 PM

Americans are more ten times more likely to complain of back pain than people in traditional societies, according to a recent study. In fact, 85 percent of us will complain of an aching back at one time or another. Left untreated, back pain can lead to increased sick time and a whopping cost to employers -- at least $3 billion in lost wages, by some estimates.

Of course, the best way to treat back pain is to prevent it. A good computer set-up -- ergonomic chair, keyboard tray, adequately sized monitor -- can help. But once back pain sets in, what can we do to treat it? Can anything turn the tide and bring us back to our old, pain-free selves?

The good news is that sufferers have several options to treat and reduce chronic pain. Which option you choose depends largely on your personal preferences, athletic aptitude (and interest) and schedule.


1) Exercise


This is maybe our least favorite option, due to our inherent laziness. Still, it remains a great way to combat back pain. Folks who choose to alleviate their discomfort with exercise have a lot of options. Some swear by yoga. Others advocate pilates. We're a big fan of this slideshow, which promises to ease back pain in only 15 minutes a day. (Which is about how long we'd like to spend on any kind of workout.)


2) Therapy


First of all, don’t take this the wrong way. We're not saying that pain is all in your head. Your perception of pain, on the other hand, definitely is. And cognitive behavioral therapy can change all that.

“CBT can change the thoughts, emotions, and behaviors related to pain, improve coping strategies, and put the discomfort in a better context,” says Joseph Hullett, MD, senior medical director for OptumHealth Behavioral Solutions.

Used properly, cognitive behavioral therapy can help patients develop coping skills, develop a problem-solving attitude, and feel more in control of their situation. According to Hullett, it has results at least as good as other methods.


3) Massage


This is by far our favorite solution. Give us the cure that involves lying on a table and getting pampered any day. Fortunately, massage therapy has growing support in the medical community as a treatment for low back pain. A recent study in the Annals of Internal Medicine showed that massage works better than chiropractic treatments or acupuncture. The best part is that it doesn't seem to matter which type of massage you get, so you gentle souls need not sign up for a bruising deep tissue treatment.

Also, relaxing a little probably doesn’t hurt anyone, either physically or mentally. And since tense muscles make back pain worse, the more relaxation, the better.

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