Back Pain Treatments—What Works and What Doesn’t

December 14, 2015 Updated: January 3, 2016
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Back pain is perhaps one of the most common health complaints across the globe. Worldwide, 1 in 10 people suffer from lower back pain, and it’s the No. 1 cause of job disability.

Seventy-five to 80 percent of back pain cases do resolve within two to four weeks, with or without treatment. This is particularly true for mechanical low-back pain (LBP), which is the second most common symptom-related reason for doctor’s visits in the U.S. 

LBP is typically preceded by some form of injury or strain, such as lifting an object or twisting while holding something heavy, operating vibrating machinery; car collisions, or falls. 

Prolonged sitting is also on this list, which may explain why simply standing up more is part of the solution in many cases. Medscape lists a number of tests used to diagnose LBP, as well as a number of ways to manage such pain. This includes:

  • Controlling inflammation 
  • Restoring range of motion 
  • Improving muscle strength and endurance
  • Coordination training and cardiovascular reconditioning 
  • Maintaining an exercise program

First Line of Treatment — Stay Active!

Diagonal Shell Stretch. This exercise will give your entire back a stretch, lengthening the muscles along your spine and across your lower back.
Diagonal Shell Stretch. This exercise will give your entire back a stretch, lengthening the muscles along your spine and across your lower back.

As you can see from the list above, the emphasis is on exercise. Indeed movement appears to be the most effective strategy to address most forms of back pain, not just LBP. 

Most people automatically want to “baby” the pain and avoid moving about as much as possible, but this may actually be contraindicated in most cases.  As reported in The Guardian:

“Despite a host of treatment options including acupuncture, manual therapies, drugs, injections, and surgery, nothing is more likely to work than staying active. Just when you least feel like it, and it hurts the most, is when experts say you have to get moving …

Lesley Colvin, a pain medicine specialist in Edinburgh, says the best evidence is for exercise. ‘If I had back pain, I’d do exercise that strengthens the core, such as yoga, pilates, and stretching.’ [Dr. Christopher] Williams advises: ‘Avoid bed rest …'”

3D Dynamic Movement

Your body needs regular activity to remain pain-free. For example, when you sit for long periods of time, you typically end up shortening your iliacus, psoas, and quadratus lumborum muscles that connect from your lumbar region to the top of your femur and pelvis. 

When these muscles are chronically short, it can cause severe pain when you stand up as they will effectively pull your lower back (lumbar) forward. 

Imbalance among the anterior and posterior chains of muscles leads to many of the physical pains you experience. By rebalancing and strengthening these muscles, you can remedy many pains and discomforts, including low back pain. 

Also, when there’s insufficient movement in your hip and thoracic spine, you end up with excessive movement in your lower back. As noted in a recent Epoch Times article, “the solution is a combination of mobility exercises for the hips and thoracic spine and stability exercises for the lumbar spine.”

The article goes on to demonstrate a number of exercises to improve hip mobility, such as:

  • Fire hydrants
  • Straight-leg extensions
  • Lateral swings
  • Bent knee, heel to ceiling
  • Thoracic mobility exercise

In short, one of the best things you can do to prevent and manage back pain is to exercise regularly to keep your back and abdominal muscles strong and flexible. 

Foundation Training — an innovative method developed by Dr. Eric Goodman to treat his own chronic low back pain — is an excellent alternative to band-aid options like painkillers and surgery, as it actually addresses the cause of the problem. 

Another approach is creating and maintaining a balance between stability and mobility, as well as your body’s ability to move efficiently and resiliently on all planes. 

This is what Lisa Huck’s 3-Dimesional Dynamic Movement Techniques do, as explained and demonstrated in the video above. Both of these strategies are far more effective than the typical conventional medical approach for back pain.

Unresolved Back Pain Is a Leading Cause of Drug Addiction 

In the U.S., an estimated 8 in 10 people struggle with back pain, and it has become a primary cause of pain killer addiction and lethal drug overdoses in this country. In 2013, 16,000 Americans died from overdosing on prescription painkillers. If you have back pain and suffer depression or anxiety, you’re at particularly high risk for opioid abuse and addiction, according to recent research. Prescription painkillers are in turn fueling heroin addiction. 

According to CDC Director Dr. Thomas Frieden, opioid painkillers like Vicodin, OxyContin, and Percocet increase your susceptibility to heroin addiction, and the vast majority — 75 percent — of heroin users report starting out on prescription painkillers.

(RobertoDavid/iStock)
Depression and anxiety tend to reduce or slow down your body’s innate capacity for self-healing, so when pain strikes, it may be a sign that you’ve let emotional difficulties and stress go unaddressed for too long. (RobertoDavid/iStock)

Avoiding Sitting May Be Part of the Long-Term Solution for Back Pain

Indeed, avoiding seated inactivity may very well be part of the long-term solution for back pain, and I can vouch for the effectiveness of this strategy myself. I suffered from lower back pain for many years and tried a host of treatments, including chiropractic, massage, stretching, grounding, back-strengthening and posture-improving exercises, and using an inversion table. 

Nothing got to the root of the problem — until I learned about the hazards of sitting, and began standing more. Simply increasing the amount of time I spend standing up — I’m now at the point where I sit for less than 30 minutes daily — completely, 100 percent, resolved my back pain.

This was an unsuspected but pleasant surprise, as resolving my back pain wasn’t the primary reason why I avoided sitting. But, that turned out to be the key puzzle piece in my case. These days, I don’t even experience back pain during long plane flights. 

If you have a desk job, I highly recommend investing in a stand-up desk.