When it comes to relief, people want it fast. And people will put their faith and money into anything that promises theyâll be back on their feetâwhether itâs an opioid medication like âOxycontin,â or a common back surgery.
Unfortunately, these methods donât have strong success rates. And they can be very risky. The best solution to the problem of back pain may be something that costs nothing at all.
Treating Back Pain Is Expensive and Risky
The fact is, treating back pain is expensive. Itâs a $100-billion-per-year industry in America. And while roughly 80% of Americans will experience at least one episode of lower back pain during their lives, there are millions stuck in the grip of chronic pain.
An estimated $40 billion is spent every year on a procedure called âspinal fusion,â and the surgery runs about $80,000. But, guess what? Even if you meet the requirements for the surgery, itâs reportedly only âsuccessfulâ about 35% of the time. And even after that, most patients are back on painkillers around two years later.
Painkillers can be very dangerous, while never actually addressing the root of the problem. They offer âBand-Aidâ solutions that tend to lead not only to dependency, but also to increased intake as pain worsens.
And the confusion surrounding back pain doesnât stop there. Reports indicate that even the supposed accurate diagnoses of back pain are up for debate. Spine surgeons told the author of Crooked, a new book about the back pain industry, that in 80% to 85% of cases, they canât accurately identify the source of pain.
Chiropractors are popular, but the research doesnât seem to be there to support their work, either. People often report feeling great following a session, but the results seem to be short-lived. And there isnât a lot of data on the long-term results.
But, if there is one thing thatâs proven to work, itâs getting up and moving around.
Related Article:Â Lower Back Pain on the Left Side
Exercise Can Help Relieve Your Back Pain
Being sedentary is a major contributor to back pain, and encourages the tightening of back muscles and dryness in your joints. Movement leads to lubrication in the joints and relaxation of muscles, resulting in less pain. When youâre sitting all day, youâre simply not taking care of your back.
If youâre experiencing back pain, try starting a light exercise program that just includes more daily movement. If youâre spending virtually all day on the sofa in pain, try doing some slow walks around your house or throughout the neighborhood. Starting at 10 minutes per walk is a good goal to shoot for; but remember, it will hurt, so go at a pace thatâs relatively comfortable for you. You can increase the duration each week and then look at ways to include more activity into your day. Resistance exercise with light dumbbells or bands is helpful, but itâs best you speak with doctor or physical therapist first to determine your capabilities and limitations and to get formal instruction on exercise technique.
Again, itâs important to remember that in the beginning, increased activity will hurt. (But if the pain seems extreme, check with your doctor or physiotherapist.) The pain caused by exercise, however, is typically brief; itâs just your body adjusting to a new stimulus. Being out of shape will take its toll. But as you start spending more time upright and moving, your body will respond. And the best part: You may not have to buy anything more than a pair of sneakers.
Treating Back Pain Doesnât Have to Cost You Anything!
Now, I donât mean to say that painkillers or back surgeries are a total waste of money. If youâve been injured or had an acute traumatic experience, surgeries and painkillers may be required for recovery and treatment.
That said, many surgeries and prescriptions are not necessary. If you like, I recommend talking to a physiologist or doctorate-level physical therapist. They can help design a program that would be most beneficial for you. But in the meantime, just spend some more time on your feet moving around. It will hurt, but it might offer the best chance of long-term benefit.
âWhen is back surgery the right choice?â Harvard Health Publications, June 2014; http://www.health.harvard.edu/pain/when-is-back-surgery-the-right-choice, last accessed July 11, 2017.
Bichell, R., âForget The Gizmos: Exercise Works Best For Lower-Back Pain,â NPR, January 11, 2016; http://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2016/01/11/462366361/forget-the-gizmos-exercise-works-best-for-lower-back-pain, last accessed July 11, 2017.