much every noninvasive treatment out there, found that
when it comes to PT, most patients get one-size-fits-all regi-
mens that aren’t intensive enough to help.
A recent Finnish study corroborates her view, finding that
a personalized PT regimen yields better results. Attitude also
matters; if you approach PT as something merely to get out of the
way before you can have surgery, it probably isn’t going to work.
Ramin concluded that the PT most likely to succeed is
led by a doctorate-level therapist who’s also an orthopedic clinical specialist able to launch patients on a “custom
exercise-based rehabilitation program.” Such programs
can take weeks and require a lifelong commitment to keeping up the exercise on your own, but for Ramin and many
patients she writes about, they were the key to lasting relief.
Unfortunately, they’re often not fully covered by insurance.
The concept that exercise can ease back pain makes sense
if you listen to the many experts who told Ramin that the
problem often stems from muscle weakness associated with
a sedentary lifestyle. In fact, the doctor who finally helped
relieve JFK’s back pain blamed weakness exacerbated by
failed back surgeries for his patient’s pain. The answer for
Kennedy, and others including Ramin: strengthening exercises, performed religiously. Many people find it helpful to
maintain an ongoing relationship with a trainer well versed
in spine health.
Su agrees exercise to strengthen core muscles can do a
lot to prevent and relieve back pain, but says it also helps in
another way — weight loss. “Belly weight increases pressure
on the disks,” he points out. “Most people are able to elimi-
nate the need for surgery by losing weight.”
If you can’t find or afford a back rehab program, don’t
despair; other physical activity, such as tai chi or certain
types of yoga, may be effective. You can find exercises on
You Tube; Ramin swears by Canadian biomechanics profes-
sor Stuart McGill’s “Big Three” exercises.
Since research has shown that stress hormones such as
cortisol can promote chronic pain, it’s not surprising that
some rehab programs for back pain also include a psychological aspect. Studies show that cognitive behavioral therapy,
mindfulness, and other psychological interventions can be
effective components of treatment.
Perhaps the surest ticket to recovery is patience. According
to the American College of Physicians, “Most patients with
acute or subacute low back pain improve over time regardless of treatment.” Try some of the noninvasive tactics listed
above to ease the discomfort, and wait it out. m
A common misconception among patients
is that surgery will cure the chronic back pain
that plagues so many of us.