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My aching back - a growing problem

Eighty percent – that’s the number of adults who will experience back pain sometime in their life. And the cost of treating back problems is rising consistently.

This week on “Take Care,” a conversation with Wayne Rath, a physical therapy expert in the treatment and prevention of back and neck pain. He has been recognized as one of the twenty most influential physical therapists in orthopedic physical therapy  and was a clinical assistant professor in the physical therapy school at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia.

Click "Read More" to hear our interview with Wayne Rath.

Treating back pain is a complicated issue, because according to Rath, “the bottom line with back pain is that it is a very individual experience.” Different people will feel different symptoms, and different treatments that will work for some won’t work for others.

Before the issue of treatment comes up though, Rath says there are simple ways to help prevent back pain from being a problem at all, and most of it involves changing habits.

“Our habits of how we sit, how we stand, how we move, how we push, how we pull, how we lift, carry, and even to some degree the positions of how we sleep -- these are all habits, these are things we do without thinking,” says  Rath.

Finding what Rath calls a “mid-range posture” is the secret to changing these habits, especially when it comes to sitting.

“If you’re sitting and your back is slouched, what you need to do is roll your hips forward, lift your chest up to the point where you feel a little bit of strain in your back, let that strain go, and then you’re in a neutral position. You need to make that your habit.”

If back pain ultimately strikes though, there are effective ways to treat it.

According to Rath, the best treatment involves spinal manipulative therapy, being educated about how the back works and exercise. “It is the combined effect of those three things that seems to have a much stronger impact, both in terms of getting the short term benefit from the treatment, as well as beginning to invest in a long term plan for prevention of recurrence, and preservation of physical functional ability, which is a key for back pain. One of the most important things for back pain is to remain active.” Spinal manipulative therapy can be performed by a physical therapist, a chiropractor or an osteopath,

One way to stay active is yoga. “Yoga is an effective tool for maintaining and restoring range motion, which is very, very important for taking care of your back. It also covers postural awareness and postural element, so it could be a very important tool for that, and it also works on balance.”

Because, as Rath said, back pain is very much an individual experience, and different types of treatmentwork for different people.

An extended interview with Dr. Wayne Rath.