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Painful backs need work

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For sufferers of low-back pain, the concept of "hurt doesn't mean harm" is difficult to fathom

For sufferers of low-back pain, the concept of "hurt doesn't mean harm" is difficult to fathom. Yet, researchers of a recent study published in the January 2004 issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine have found this to be true. The six-month study of workers suffering from low-back pain focused on their number of missed workdays and the effects of a gradually increasing exercise program. Participants also learned how to change their responses to pain.

Many employees miss weeks of work due to back pain. Past research shows that exercise encouraging gradual resumption of normal activities may help such individuals return to work. Current researchers decided to put these findings to the test.

Airline company employees with low-back pain were randomly assigned to either a behaviour-oriented, gradually increasing activity program or ordinary treatment with an occupational therapist. The first group regularly participated in strength and endurance exercises and other exercises that mimicked their job duties.

On average, the participants in the activity- and behaviour-based group missed far fewer workdays than those in the conventional treatment group. According to the research team, further research is needed, but these findings are positive reinforcement that it is safe to work despite back pain.

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