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Why Back Pain is Hard to Beat

Many of our website readers and Dreamland listeners also listen to Art Bell on Coast to Coast AM and they?re been worried about the recent bout of back pain that kept him off the air for so long. A new study shows why patients find it so difficult to recover from a back injury ? it?s because they start using the wrong muscles to bend and lift. This causes further injury to the spinal column and turns a short-term muscle injury into a long-term problem.

Professor William Marras of Ohio State University studied more than 20 patients with low back pain. His team wired them up to devices which recorded electrical activity in their back muscles, showing whether the person was using them or not. The results were compared with those from uninjured people.

The patients with low-back pain used many more muscles and ended up exerting much more force on their spines. Instead of using their powerful back muscles, they tried to use abdominal or side muscles in order to avoid pain or re-injury.

Marras says, ?When people apply all those extra muscles, it?s as if they?re pushing down on the short end of a seesaw, and trying to lift something on the far end. They exert much force and to little effect.? Extra pressure on the spine can lead to more serious--and even permanent--injuries, such as disc degeneration.

Professor Marras thinks that low-back pain patients need to physically retrain their muscles. ?After back injury, people need to re-learn how to use their muscles naturally,? he says. They should never try to lift heavy objects, even if they are relatively pain free at the time. He also recommends that patients with back injuries lose excess weight.

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