The Diet Detective: Understanding Back Pain Relief and Prevention

What are some common myths regarding exercise and body pain?

Physical Therapist

Eric Robertson, P.T., D.P.T.

One persistent myth regarding back and joint pain is that the joints and back require rest to reduce the pain. In fact, the opposite is true, and research supports the fact that the best thing you can do is to keep moving and keep exercising. Study after study show that bed rest is not indicated for back pain and that joint pain reduces with exercise and regular activity. Since motion can assist in weight loss, there is a strong rationale for remaining active despite experiencing this pain. Of course, pain that is severe or unrelenting may require the oversight of a health professional.

Orthopedic Surgeons

Robert Sterling, M.D.

The most common myth is that exercise is going to make arthritis worse. Certainly, exercises that are painful should be avoided, and high-impact exercises place more mechanical stress on the joints, but most individuals with arthritis have improvement in their function with an exercise program.

Nathaniel Tindel, M.D.

The one myth that has really been disproven over the years is that if your back hurts, bed rest is the best answer. While an acute back-pain flare-up may require one to two days of bed rest, getting out of bed and mobilizing as soon as possible has been shown to be one of the most important variables in speeding recovery. The other myth is "take two aspirin and call me in the morning." Aspirin may be a fair pain reliever, but it is also a blood thinner, and doctors no longer recommend aspirin for pain.

Are there exercises you should avoid when you have back pain?

Physical Therapist

Eric Robertson, P.T., D.P.T.

Exercises that increase pain should be avoided or done in moderation. Sit-ups may stress the back unnecessarily. Try crunches instead. High-impact activities such as jumping, or beginning a running program if you're not already accustomed to one, are best avoided.

The great thing about exercise is that it doesn't need to be fancy to be helpful. The key to avoiding back and joint pain and inflammation is that the exercise needs to occur regularly. It could be anything from simply walking to swimming to regular stretching.

Exercise Physiologist

Julia Valentour, M.S., an exercise physiologist and program coordinator at the American Council on Exercise

You should avoid:

  • Bending forward without supporting your weight
  • Combinations of twisting and bending
  • Straight-leg sit-ups
  • Straight-leg raises when lying on your back
  • Jogging or jarring movements
  • Using improper body mechanics, especially when lifting
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