Don't Give Lower Back Pain a Rest

For the 90 percent of the American population that suffers from serious lower back pain at some point in life, rest is usually the remedy of choice. However, that actually may be counterproductive, says Dr. Pasquale Montesano, orthopaedic surgeon at the UC Davis Medical Center. Bed rest causes fibrosis of the tissues and stiff joints, sometimes to the point where they do not work anymore. "The bywords for treating lower back pain are 'life is motion, motion is life,'" Montesano says. A comprehensive review of literature on spinal disorders concluded that only patient education and aerobic conditioning were useful to people with lower back pain. Education increases a person's understanding and commitment, while aerobic conditioning increases circulation and nutrition to the disks. Statistics show that most people recover from lower back pain in three months, regardless of treatment, leading them to think their treatment is effective, even though it may not be, Montesano says. Factors that seem correlated with lower back pain are sedentary jobs, substance abuse and cigarette smoking.

Media Resources

Andy Fell, Research news (emphasis: biological and physical sciences, and engineering), 530-752-4533,