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Myth Buster Back Pain Exercise and Pain Relief

Exercise and working out are things some of us take for granted. For people who have back pain, they may be a little nervous about it.

Myth: Exercise is bad for your back.

“That’s false,” says Dr. Jonathan Carmouche, an orthopaedic doctor at Carilion Clinic. “Exercise is often used as treatment for exacerbations of back pain. A typical exercise program would involve something that’s aerobic, some aerobic conditioning program, combined with some trunk strengthening or abdominal strengthening exercises.”

Dr Carmouche also helped us with another common back pain myth about hot and cold for pain relief.

Myth: Always apply heat for back pain.

“Heat does have a role,” he says, “however for acute exacerbations, often cold is helpful to reduce the inflammation. Heat is usually used in the more chronic management of exacerbations.”

In the first 24 to 48 hours after an exacerbation of back pain, periodic icing (around 15 to 20 minutes on, 30 to 40 minutes off) is most appropriate.

Exercise is recommended for chronic low back pain (pain experienced longer than 12 weeks), but current guidelines do not recommend exercise for acute low back pain. Acute low back pain is pain of less than 6 weeks in duration.

Current guidelines recommend heat for acute low back pain not ice. That said, there are patients who respond better to ice than heat. I typically recommend heat and if that exacerbates the pain, then try ice.

For acute low back pain, the American College of Physicians and the American Pain Society recommend the following:  Heat, advice to stay active and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication. If pain continues the only intervention recommendation is for spinal manipulation. Exercise is not recommended for acute low back pain.

Chiropractors are skilled in the application of spinal manipulation for acute low back pain. Contact us today if you are experiencing acute low back pain which isn’t responding to self-care.

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