Is Exercise the Best Medicine for Back Pain?

Back Pain is a universal condition that is estimated to affect more than 12% of the world’s population at any one time.

Something that most of us will experience at some point in our lives, backache or lower back pain (LBP) is generally caused by a sedentary lifestyle, bad posture, incorrect lifting of heavy items, or bending awkwardly, and while it will usually improve within just a few weeks, some people suffer chronic back pain that can last for months, even years. As a result, some 10 million working days were lost in the UK in 2015, resulting in an estimated £1 billion in lost revenue due to back pain.

The British Chiropractic Association (BCA) has said that the modern “couch potato lifestyle” is to blame for the increase in the number of back related conditions reported each year. Sitting at a computer or desk all day places immense pressure on the discs and spine, which in turn builds up tension in the lower back, and so it is essential that office workers take regular breaks to relive the burden on the back and remove unnecessary strain.


Common Treatments for Back Pain


While there is no short-term cure for back pain, the National Health Service (NHS) recommends that people with backache try to remain as active as possible, use hot or cold compression packs, and take pain relief medications to ease the symptoms of their condition.

Those suffering with long-term chronic back pain may be prescribed stronger painkillers by their GP or medical healthcare professional, and referred to a chiropractor or physiotherapists who will generally recommend specific exercises to strengthen the lower back and improve the posture, but in severe cases, surgery may be the only option… or is it?


New Research on Treatment for Back Pain


A recent study published by JAMA Internal Medicine suggests that exercise and education could be highly effective at reducing the risk of lower back pain and improving long-term conditions.

The research, carried out by Dr. Daniel Steffens of the University of Sydney, included randomised clinical trials on 30,850 participants, and found that exercise alone could reduce the risk of lower back pain (and the sick leave associated with it), at least in the short-term, and that exercise combined with education is likely to reduce the risk of back pain altogether.

The study also found that traditional back pain treatments such as back belts and shoe insoles do not prevent lower back pain, and that the quality of the evidence suggesting that education and ergonomics can be used to treat back pain is “very low”.


What the NHS has to Say…


The British National Health Service was quick to comment on the article released in the Daily Mirror Newspaper relating to the above study, and while they agree that the study adds weight to the suggestion that exercise may be useful in preventing back pain, it does not look at treatments for existing back pain, and so the findings should be “viewed with caution”.

In the UK, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) currently recommends that people suffering with non-specific lower back pain stay active and exercise regularly as part of an early management plan, but the NHS suggest that this course of treatment may not provide suitable pain relief for those with chronic back pain, and that the results of the study may not be applicable to everyone.

Can exercise can reduce the number of sick days taken by people with lower back pain? The jury is still out on that one, but regular exercise has so many other health benefits that it must be worth a try!


How to Prevent and Treat the Most Common Sports Injuries

Treatment for common sports injuries vary from patient to patient. Some people prefer to self-medicate and some buy codeine online from a registered pharmacy, while others would rather try natural remedies at home, but if your sports injury is severe, you will need the help of a prescription doctor who will prescribe a treatment plan to ease your symptoms and help you get back on your feet.

Exercise and sports belong in every fitness plan, and when combined with a healthy diet rich in fruits and vegetables, it can help us stay slim and fit well into old age. From football and aerobics to swimming and cycling, there are sports to suit every age and every fitness level, but accidents and injuries regularly occur during sporting activities, and so it essential that you take preventative measures to ensure you avoid the sprains and strains that could leave you in agony for weeks.

Preventing Common Sports Injuries

While it is not always possible to prevent a sports injury, there are certain things you can do to limit the risks. These include:
Warming Up: Every workout should begin with a short warm-up session to increase blood and oxygen flow. Preparing the body with gentle stretching exercises and light cardio will give the muscles chance to react and prepare for the sporting activities in which you intend to participate.
Know Your Limits: If you are participating in competitive sports, it can be tempting to push yourself to the max, but it is important to know your limits so that you do not push your body beyond your current capabilities. Over exerting yourself can lead to all kinds of sports injuries, so proceed with caution.
Use the right Equipment: You can drastically reduce the risk of sports injury by wearing the right sports gear and using the right equipment. Good running or training shoes, shin guards, gum shields, and protective gear for skiing and winter sports are well worth the investment.
Stretching after Exercise: As important as warming up, stretching after sport and exercise will help prevent against muscle spasms and increase blood flow.

Treating Common Sports Injuries

Depending on the severity of your sports injury, you may or may not need medical intervention. If your symptoms are mild, you may be able to treat your injury at home, but if your symptoms are severe and persistent, it is recommended that you seek medical advice.
Home Treatment: If you think you may have a mild sprain or pulled muscle, you can try treating it a home with plenty of rest, ice packs to reduce any swelling, and over-the-counter painkillers such as Paracetamol or Ibuprofen. If the pain lasts for more than 72 hours, you should make an appointment to visit your local GP, who may prescribe a stronger pain medicine such as Codeine.
Specialist Treatment: If your sports injury is ongoing, your doctor may refer you to a specialist for physiotherapy and other treatments such as PRICE therapy (protection, rest, ice, compression and elevation), and Corticosteroid injections.
Surgery: In extreme cases, you may need surgery to fix broken bones, repair torn ligaments or realign fractures. This is always a last resort, but it is sometimes unavoidable.
Rest: Finally, if you are suffering from a common sports injury, it is vital that you get plenty of rest so that the body has time to heal itself. You should refrain from taking part in any exercise or sports until your symptoms have subsided, and when you do feel ready to start again, you should proceed with extreme caution so that you do not exacerbate any underlying condition.

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