Back pain: stretching for pain reduction

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For people with low back pain, the researchers recommend frequent stretching - this practice would help control pain by reducing its sensitivity.

In 90% of cases, back pain in low back pain heals in less than 4 to 6 weeks. But if the pain exceeds 12 weeks, the back pain becomes "chronic." Even when it does, it is not and should not be inevitable. As Health Insurance explains, the cause of back pain is often sedentary lifestyle or lack of activity. The muscles relax, they are not strong enough to do their job, and pain occurs in the lower back. That is why it is recommended to maintain or resume physical activity quickly, because it is by maintaining your back and strengthening your muscles and the flexibility of the ligaments that the patient heals.

In addition to practicing adapted physical activity, the organization also recommends regular flexibility and stretching exercises. A study published in the Scandinavian Journal of Pain by a team from Laval University and McGill University suggests that prolonged passive stretching of the back can reduce sensitivity to pain. If these results are confirmed in patients suffering from chronic low back pain, this intervention could become a tool in the fight against low back pain, also called "lumbago". For the purposes of their study, the researchers recruited 22 patients without back pain.

"Greater tolerance in the lower back"

The participants underwent a test to measure their threshold for pain sensitivity in the muscles of the lower back and forearm. "Using an algometer, we gradually increase the pressure exerted on the muscle until reaching the pain threshold", testifies the head of the study, Professor Hugo Massé-Alarie.

Subsequently, the subjects performed a stretching session of the back muscles. For three minutes, they had to lie supine with their legs bent over their chests. A foam roller placed under the sacrum and a strap around the thighs held the position in place, minimizing muscle contractions.

"In general, after 30 seconds, stretching does not provide an additional benefit for muscle flexibility. On the other hand, as we are interested in pain sensitivity, we use a duration long enough to cause discomfort in the subjects," adds the researcher. The scientists then retested the participants with the algometer. Results? Stretching the back significantly increased the pain sensitivity threshold. According to Professor Massé-Alarie, "this greater tolerance was observed in the lower back but also in the forearm. The effect appears to be systemic, as if stretching caused a reaction in the central nervous system".

Assistance in the practice of rehabilitation exercises.

The researchers want to be cautious, noting that the clinical implications of these results need to be specified, in particular because it should not be forgotten that the pain caused is different from spontaneous pain. But they want to confirm the effectiveness of stretching in raising the pain tolerance threshold by calling people with back pain. If successful, this practice could be used for two purposes. "Stretching could help patients to control their pain in the short term. Also, as their tolerance to pain would be higher, they would be less afraid to do the recommended rehabilitation exercises," concludes Professor Massé-Alarie.

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