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Innovative Physical Therapy Relieves Back Pain

Researchers Say Technique Works When All Else Fails
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April 14, 2005 (Miami Beach, Fla.) -- An innovative physical therapy technique may relieve back pain even when all other treatments fail.

The technique, called Souchard's global postural re-education -- or GPR for short -- employs a series of gentle movements to realign spinal column joints and strengthen and stretch muscles that have become tight and weak from underuse.

"GPR corrects the patient's posture and decompresses the spinal canal," says Conrado Estol, MD, PhD, of the Neurologic Center for Treatment and Rehabilitation in Buenos Aires, Argentina. He presented his study at the American Academy of Neurology 57th Annual Meeting.

Return to Daily Activities

"In our study, nine in 10 people with chronic back pain due to disc disease significantly improved and were able to return to their usual daily activities -- usually within five months."

GPR can also help the 95% of adults who will suffer acute back pain injury at some point in their lives, he tells WebMD.

Developed in France, GPR is only now being introduced in the United States.

Patient, Therapist Work Together

A person with chronic back pain is in too much discomfort to perform the exercise on his own. A physical therapist guides the process, stretching the muscles along the spinal column while the patient is in the specified positions.

There are two basic positions: standing up and lying down with the knees bent. While in each of these positions, the patient places his arms at his side and tries to open them wider and wider.

"The therapist helps you to find the level you're comfortable with, as you keep increasing the range of motion," Estol says.

Estol says medications and surgery for severe and chronic back pain typically have limited or no benefit.

That's why he decided to try the new method on 102 patients with chronic back pain associated with severe degenerative disc disease of the spine. Patients with degenerative disc disease can experience back pain so debilitating that they can't bend, stretch or, sometimes, even get out of a chair without help.

5 Months of Treatment

The participants had severe pain for an average of seven months; 82 had lower back pain and 20 had neck pain. About half were women.

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