New research suggests that inactivity is not the best option when dealing with certain back pain. For example, although bed rest is a traditional treatment for sciatica, research at Maastricht University in the Netherlands has found it does little if nothing to improve the condition.
Sciatica, characterized by a shooting pain down the back of the leg, is frequently accompanied by back pain. To test the effectiveness of bed rest, the Dutch researchers studied 183 patients diagnosed with sciatica. Half were told to get two weeks of bed rest and the other half were told to go about their regular daily activities, but to avoid straining their backs or doing anything that would provoke pain. The researchers called the treatment watchful waiting.
According to the research team, the majority of patients with sciatica improved with watchful waiting, meaning staying essentially immobile for two weeks was not more effective; not to mention the stress created for most people with the prospect of missing work and stopping their lives for fourteen days.
The researchers observed that 87 percent of participants in both groups reported symptom improvement three months after their initial diagnosis. Assessments of pain intensity, disruptiveness of the symptoms, and functional status revealed showed no statistically significant differences between the two groups.
Another study determined that both chiropractors and physicians under-prescribe exercise as a treatment for chronic low back and neck pain. Researchers at the University of North Carolina surveyed nearly 700 people with chronic back or neck pain who had visited a doctor, physical therapist, or chiropractor during the previous year. They found that less than 50 percent of those interviewed were prescribed exercise. However, individuals who had seen a physical therapist were the most likely to have had an exercise regimen recommended; specifically, muscle stretching and strengthening exercises. The study’s authors called exercise one of the few moderately effective therapies for chronic back and neck pain.
Other researchers from the Group Health Cooperative found that therapeutic massage seemed to provide long-lasting benefits for persistent back pain than other treatments. In their study, 262 patients between the ages of 20 and 70 who suffered from persistent lower back pain were divided into three groups – those who received acupuncture, those who received therapeutic massage, and those who were provided self-care educational materials.
The long-term results found that massage was superior to acupuncture as a treatment. Participants using massage used the least medications and massage had the lowest costs of subsequent care.
So in addition to regular chiropractic adjustments, incorporate massage and exercise into your daily routine to better control back pain.