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Is Your Job a Pain in the Back?

Your project is late, your phone won't stop ringing, and your back is acting up again. If that scenario sounds entirely too typical, your stressful work life may be a key cause of your aching back.

Treating Back Pain continued...

Don't suffer in silence. The sooner your pain can be diagnosed and treated, the more likely treatment is to be effective.

Another important reason to see a doctor for your back pain, especially if you are over 45 years of age, says Saffir, is that in rare cases the pain can be a symptom of a severe condition. These include cancerous tumors of the spine, infections, and progressive inflammatory diseases.

There's a host of people out there who claim they can help you with your back pain, including general practitioners, neurologists, surgeons, chiropractors, and physical therapists. How do you choose what's right for you?

You might want to start with a pain management expert, like Gary Starkman. Although trained in neurology, Starkman's specialty is preventing, diagnosing, and treating pain of all types. Someone like him can help you decide what type of treatment you might need or what other specialists you might want to visit. These decisions often depend on the cause of your pain or the type of injury you have.

Here is just a sample of the options available. A good pain expert will likely use more than one approach:

Watchful waiting: Sometimes mild back pain will go away on its own with no treatment.

Ergonomics: This means thinking about the things you do with your body all day, such as sitting or standing too much and lifting inappropriately. All the things people should do to prevent back pain go double for those already experiencing pain.

Psychotherapy: If your pain is stress-related, a therapist can help you identify and cope with it. Sarno believes that developing a deep understanding of the psychological causes of your back pain, as well as why the brain translates stress into pain, can go a long way toward relieving your discomfort.

Physical therapy: This includes doing exercises and stretching that help prevent and treat back pain. These can be done with the help of a physical therapist or at home, after you have been taught how to do them properly. Continuing to stretch and exercise to keep your back in shape even after you feel better can help prevent another back injury.

Massage: Doesn't the word alone make you feel better already? A recent study showed it to be one of the most effective treatments for chronic low back pain.

Chiropractic adjustments: Chiropractors are adamant that the spine adjustments they perform are the single best treatment for back pain. "[Spinal manipulation], or using the hands to apply force to the back or adjust the spine, is helpful in the first month of low back symptoms. It's a proven treatment that works," says Culbreth.

Drug therapy: This can range from occasionally taking an Advil or aspirin to having muscle relaxants injected directly into sore muscles or having a pump continuously deliver painkilling medication to your spine.

Surgery: Even orthopaedic surgeons Girardi and Delamarter say surgery should be used only as a last resort. It is not always effective and, if used inappropriately, can make problems worse.

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Reviewed on January 07, 2004

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