Studies Book Student College

Using Studies to Improve Your Back Pain

Remember those old commercials where someone would get asked how they spelled relief?  Well, studies linked to back pain might as well be telling us that relief starts with the letter ‘E’. That’s because new data is telling researchers that exercise and education are the best ways to spell relief for your back.1

Back pain is such a prominent problem among people that all kinds of things have been invented in an effort to fight it. This includes ergonomic chairs, home massage kits, shoe inserts, and other products. However, University of Sydney researcher Chris Maher says that exercise is still the best remedy.

It’s true that certain belts, inserts and other products aren’t completely useless. However, Maher and his team scanned over 21 studies from around the world that focused on acute lower back pain. When you combine the number of people involved in the studies, it added up to over 30,000 participants.

It was found that in the year following an episode of back pain, exercise reduced the odds of new cases by 25 to 40 percent. Dr. Tim Carey of the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill provided commentary in the results (published in JAMA Internal Medicine). He believes that 25-40 percent is a high success rate when it comes to back pain.

With results like that, researchers like Dr. Carey don’t understand why exercise hasn’t become a more consistent part of a prescribed treatment plan. He told NPR, “Prescribing ineffective treatments for patients may actually distract them and give them a false sense of security away from treatments that acre actually beneficial.”2

The challenge is sometimes knowing which exercises provide the best treatments for individual patients. The key might be additional research that features a larger number of participants. If specific exercises can be identified, the effects may not only provide relief, but also save money. It is estimated that around $80 billion has been spent on problems related to the spine.

Education can also be a consistent back pain reliever. Those who suffer from it need to take action on habits that contribute to the problem. This includes smoking, dieting and posture.


  1. Steffens D. Prevention of low back pain: a systematic review and meta-analysis. JAMA Internal Medicine. January 11, 2016.
  2. Bichell RE. Forget the gizmos: exercise works best for lower-back pain. NPR.

Unexpected Causes of Back Pain

If you’ve been experiencing back pain but you’re stumped as to what might have caused it, you may need to broaden your scope. Check your posture, consider whether you have pulled a muscle by heavy lifting. Look for all the low hanging fruit of back pain causes, of course. But don’t stop there!

Here are some questions to ask yourself when the normal reasons have been exhausted:

How long have you had your shoes?

Even some of the most seemingly comfortable shoes could actually be doing more harm than good. Even though high heels are known for causing back pain, the trust is that regular shoes can impact the health of your back as well. This is especially true if the bottom of the shoe is damaged. That inadequate support can cause both pain in your foot and back.

How heavy is your purse or shoulder bag?

If you have a purse with a shoulder strap, be mindful of how much weight is pulling on your shoulder at any time. Carrying that burden each and every day can take a toll on your back and shoulders. Be sure to only carry what you really need to have with you each day, and take advantage of opportunities to lighten the load.

Do you fly a lot?

After a long flight, take a few moments to stretch or move around a bit before carrying your bags to your next destination. After sitting in a space filled with pressurized air, the discs in your back can become irritated and might be a little more susceptible to bulging.

Are you a smoker?

When people think about the health hazards of smoking, the focus is usually on the lungs. However smoking causes damage in other parts of the body as well – including the back. How? Cigarettes limit the amount of oxygen that the body takes in with each breath. When your cells become deprived of oxygen, it can hinger the range of motion you have in your back. Smokers possess a very high risk of back pain.

Do you find yourself stressed out a lot?

Mental stress and anxiety doesn’t just hang out in your head. The effects stream into other parts of your body as well. You’ll feel it in the forms of tension, discomfort, and sometimes pain.

How do you use your cell phone or tablet?

We live in a world that’s full of smartphones and tablets. When you see other people using these devices, many of them have their heads tilted downward. Maybe they’re using their head, neck, or shoulder to keep the phones against their ear. When you think about how many times phones and other devices are used each week, you know that’s going to take a toll on your neck and back. Be aware of your positioning when using yours.


Understanding Whiplash

Unfortunately injuries to the neck or cervical spine are common in motor vehicle accidents. These injuries often occur from “whiplash,” or a sudden jerk to the head. Whiplash injuries typically occur in rear impact collisions.

However they can also occur in frontal impact as well as side impact collisions. During a whiplash injury, there is a sudden acceleration/ deceleration force that is caused by the neck being thrown violently backwards and then forwards. The motion is a lot like how a whip snaps.

Whiplash can seriously damage your soft tissue which includes the muscles, ligaments, and discs of the spine. It can also damage bones, including your vertebrae.

The symptoms that follow a whiplash may include: neck pain, headaches, stiffness in the neck and shoulders, shoulder pain, fatigue, dizziness, jaw pain, and/ or arm pain or weakness. These symptoms may start immediately following the trauma or, in many cases, start the following day and after the person comes down from the adrenalin rush of the accident. In some cases, these symptoms may not start up until a few weeks following the injury. The diagnosis of whiplash is based on the patient’s history, as well as symptoms and range of motion.

After an accident, an MRI of the neck may or may not be necessary.

The starting goal of treatment is to reduce pain and swelling as well as help maintain range of motion. If symptoms persist beyond two or three months, more aggressive therapy is necessary. At PDR Clinics, we utilize the MedX equipment to rebuild the injured muscles of the neck to obtain long-term results. We test an individual’s neck to determine if there is soft tissue injury and to what extent. The test results help steer us towards providing the appropriate therapy to better the chances of recovery.