Ow! My achin'.
My neck, shoulders and upper back are sore all the time. My lower is forever threatening to spasm and put me down for the count. It's driving me bananas.
In my case, it's from toting a baby around during most of my waking hours. Suddenly, I'm part of the 80 per cent of the population complaining of back pain.
There's a whack of treatments out there: surgery, physio, chiro, painkillers, acupuncture, mood therapy and a bunch more.
What else works?
What the experts say
"The serious forms of back pain are largely caused by bulging or herniated discs. Spinal decompression can stretch a damaged disc, taking the disc away from the irritated nerve and permitting it to heal, eventually reducing pain. Spinal decompression is successful, offers lasting results, is painless, non-surgical and drugless. We also offer a laser to reduce inflammation, and a nutritional supplement called Disc Renewal Plus to support the healing of damaged connective tissue. Lysine, glucosamine sulphate, omega-3 fatty acids, proline, bromelain, red wine and vitamin C are associated with healing this tissue. We encourage people to keep weight down, be active, have a strong, healthy core and to be posturally smart, like bending at the knees when lifting."
chiropractor and CEO,
Back Clinics of Canada, Toronto
"The Alexander Technique educates people in a way that allows them to correct how they carry themselves and move, thus preventing backaches. When people suffer pain, their reaction is a tightening of the muscles, which leads to compression and immobility. These lead to greater injury and more pain, a morbid self-feeding cycle. This cycle is broken by learning the Alexander Technique, which has a component of muscle relaxation. Another consequence of back pain is a startle reflex that increases after every episode of pain. This causes people to seize their muscles in anticipation of pain in a way that leads to rigidity and injury. It can be eradicated through education."
Alexander Technique teacher, Toronto
"The key message is that back pain is common and most of the time resolves on its own, regardless of treatment. Be patient, and don't be afraid to move. Exercise is the one treatment consistently shown to improve back pain. Cognitive behaviour therapy and changing how we perceive pain - improving coping strategies, sleep, reducing anxiety, and changing avoidance behaviours - can also help. None of the other treatments for pain have been particularly effective, including injections and surgery. When we perform MRIs on asymptomatic people, a large percentage have "disease" or "pathology" in their discs or the spine, but this doesn't correspond to pain. Just because you have pain and you get an MRI that shows you have degenerated discs doesn't mean that this is the cause of your pain. Most people over 40 have degenerated discs, and many are asymptomatic. Does this mean that this finding is a disease? Or a normal part of aging?"
medical director, rehabilitation medicine clinics and the limb viability service,
Harborview Medical Center, Seattle, Washington
"The answer may be in your refrigerator, not the medicine cabinet. A compound in tart cherries acts like pain medication similar to Celebrex-type pills. Certain foods have anti-inflammatory qualities: ginger, green tea, the polyphenol content in apples, berries, chili peppers, turmeric. Olive oil contains a compound called oleocanthal that works the same way over-the-counters work. (Corn and safflower are inflammatory oils.) Nuts have an anti-inflammatory component - omega-3, fibre, antioxidants. Marine fish has omega-3s. Vitamin D deficiency is associated with inflammation. The more you weigh, the more pressure on the joints. It's eight times the load on the knees and back for every 1 pound you're over."
NutriSource Inc., Great Neck, New York
"Pain, depression and anxiety commonly occur together and make each other worse. It's important to screen for anxiety as well as depression in patients with chronic pain, especially if their pain is not improving with standard medications or other treatments. In this case, adding treatments effective for anxiety and/or depression may be helpful, like cognitive therapy, exercise and others that are beneficial for both pain and mood."
professor of medicine,
Indiana University School of Medicine, Indianapolis
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