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How to Stay Active with Chronic Back Pain

Chronic back pain can be debilitating and make it difficult to engage in physical activity, but staying active is essential for maintaining overall health and managing pain.


No known treatment reliably resolves chronic back pain. Treatments are directed at reducing pain because there is no known manner of eliminating this pain.


Effective treatment of chronic back pain is like any chronic disease. It requires frequent interactions between care providers and the patient to re-assess and modifies treatment parameters to maximize the quality of life.


Management of chronic back pain is a dynamic process whose endpoint is helping the patient to stay active. The care process is driven by the patient.

  • From the provider's point of view, treatment is typically reactive. No news is good news.

  • From the patient's point of view, treatment is sought during exacerbations, with baseline pain accepted as unfixable.

The patient's goal is to remain as active as possible.


Long periods of bed rest, for example, are documented to worsen the patient's condition over time. Studies have shown that the more active patient is the patient with the best quality of life.


Bed rest is no longer recommended as a primary treatment for back pain, as studies have shown that prolonged bed rest can worsen back pain and delay recovery. However, short periods of rest (a day or two) may be helpful for acute back pain, especially if it is severe.


Instead of bed rest, the current recommendations for treating back pain focus on staying active and engaging in regular physical activity. This can help reduce pain, improve flexibility, and strengthen the muscles that support the back. Other treatments for back pain may include pain medications, physical therapy, chiropractic care, massage therapy, and/or other interventions depending on the underlying cause and severity of the pain.


The patient is advised to choose low-impact activities: Low-impact Activities, such as walking, swimming, or yoga, can benefit those with chronic back pain. These activities are less likely to cause additional stress on the spine and can help improve flexibility, strength, and balance.


Maintaining good posture can help reduce stress on the back and decrease pain. Sit straight with your feet on the ground and your back supported when sitting. When standing, distribute your weight evenly on both feet and avoid slouching.


Regular stretching can help improve flexibility and reduce back pain. Try incorporating stretching exercises into your daily routine, such as gentle hamstring stretches or cat-cow stretches.


Heat and ice therapy can be effective in reducing back pain. Apply a heat pad or take a warm bath to help relax tense muscles. Alternatively, apply ice to the affected area to help reduce inflammation and numb pain.


Pace yourself: Don't overdo it with physical activity. It's important to pace yourself and listen to your body. Start slowly and gradually increase the intensity and duration of activity over time.


Remember that it's important to find a balance between staying active and taking care of your body. Listen to your body, be patient, and work with a healthcare professional to develop a safe and effective plan for managing chronic back pain.


Above all, remain active for the best quality of life with chronic back pain


Additional information can be found in a previous blog: "Coping with Failed Back Syndrome."




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