Low-Back Pain
Chester J. Zelasko, Ph.D. | July 12, 2005

In general, I don’t personalize the Newsletter because I like to stick to science and research. That hasn’t changed, but my experience with low-back pain is what prompted this Newsletter and I thought I’d share the pain, so to speak. Most of you know what I’m talking about--almost everyone experiences low-back pain at some point in his or her life. In this Newsletter I’ll review the problem, and tell you what you can do about it.

How big a problem?
According to the National Business Group on Health, 60-80% of adults experience low-back pain in their lifetime (1), and up to half of all adults will have back pain within a given year. Back pain is one of the top ten reasons for a visit to your doctor.

Back pain costs our healthcare system a bundle every year. Researchers from Duke University found that over $90 billion is spent in the U.S. healthcare system for low-back pain; $26 billion is spent directly on treating low-back pain, including doctor’s visits, therapy, and pain medication (2).

Why does low-back pain occur?
The simple answer is because we walk upright--gravity wreaks havoc on the skeletal and muscular system. When you add to those gravitational forces a sedentary lifestyle, too much body fat in the front, and a complete disregard for both proper posture and proper lifting techniques, the prevalence of low-back pain isn’t all that surprising.

Most people with low-back pain who get an examination including an MRI (magnetic resonance image) will find out they have a bulging disc. Here’s some news for you: we pretty much all have bulging discs. The difference is that for some, it’s enough to cause the vertebrae to pinch the nerve and cause pain while in others, it’s not. But we all have them.

My experience with low-back pain
I’ve had muscle spasms in my lower back for over 20 years. Recently, I had an episode that did not resolve itself through the usual means: ibuprofen, stretching the lower back and legs, and strengthening the abdominals. Nothing worked to resolve the pain. I happened to mention this to a colleague at Better Life and he said, “I’ve got just the thing.” He gave me a small book called Treat Your Own Back by Robin McKenzie. He said he had better results with this program for resolving pain than anything else he’s tried.

When you’re in pain, you’ll try almost anything. I read the book--especially the part about who should and should not use the program--and began to do the exercises immediately and as recommended. Within 24 hours, the pain was under control. Within 72 hours, I was able to run again. One of the side benefits for me was that a long-standing problem with gluteal pain has been eliminated almost completely after several weeks.

I continue to do the exercises recommended in the book every day. Some days when I feel so good that I forget, I get reminded with a twinge or two, and then it’s right back to the program.

Treat Your Own Back
Better Life Unlimited is pleased to make Treat Your Own Back available for purchase on our website; simply click the title of the book. If you suffer from low-back pain, it’s the best $9.95 you’ll ever spend. The McKenzie program is used by physical therapists and orthopedists throughout the world with excellent results. Of course, you’ll have to do the work faithfully, but I can tell you that it’s fairly easy. The first exercise has you lying face down on the floor with your hands at your sides for 2-3 minutes--you can’t get much easier than that!

Important points
Read the section in Chapter 2 (page 13) that talks about who should and who should not use the program. If you fall into the “shouldn’t” category, make an appointment with your physician today.

The McKenzie program helps reduce the pain, but it doesn’t fix the problem. In order to fix the problem, you’ll have to lose the belly (if you have one) and strengthen the core muscles. The 30 Day Plan can help you do both very effectively.

Don’t try to do all the exercises at once! Follow the directions in the book exactly as written--doing more won’t get you any further ahead. It really took years to get to this point in the pain process; your body’s not going to recover overnight.

Will the McKenzie program work for you? There’s no way to know until you try it. Check with your physician, orthopedist, or physical therapist before you start to be cautious, but get started ASAP.

All you have to lose is the pain.

  1. Research Translation: Musculoskeletal Disorders - Prevention, Diagnosis and Treatment. w.wbgh.com/prevention/musculoskeletal.cfm.

  2. Luo X, et al. Estimates and patterns of direct healthcare expenditures among individuals with back pain in the United States. Spine. 2004; 29(1):79-86.
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