Exercise: Best Medicine for Back Pain

Good NPR article suggesting that the best way to ditch back pain is to exercise…any kind of exercise.  Start moving, and don’t look “back” !

“While back belts and shoe insoles didn’t seem to offer a benefit, they determined, exercise reduced the risk of repeated low-back pain in the year following an episode between 25 and 40 percent. It didn’t really matter what kind of exercise — core strengthening, aerobic exercise, or flexibility and stretching. Their review was published Monday in JAMA Internal Medicine.

“If there were a pill out there that could reduce your risk of future episodes of back pain by 30 percent, I’d probably be seeing ads on television every night,” says Dr. Tim Carey, an internist at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill who wrote an accompanying commentary in the journal.

And yet, he says, health care providers don’t prescribe exercise nearly enough, given its effectiveness. Carey says fewer than half of patients participate in an exercise program, even if they have long-term back pain.

In researching what docs do and don’t prescribe, Carey found that passive treatments were much more common, like ultrasound or traction treatments, back belts and orthotic insoles. “Prescribing ineffective treatments for patients may actually distract them and give them a false sense of security away from treatments that are actually beneficial,” Carey says.

The discrepancy between what’s most effective and what’s most prescribed highlights a bigger problem: The health industry is centered on sellable products, and exercise isn’t one.”