19 April 2016

Back Pain Attacks Writers and Readers


Do you love books? Reading them, writing them, anything to do with them?
And have you ever had back pain?

Chances are high that you said yes to both books and back pain. This is a site for mystery lovers, after all, and approximately 84 percent of adults get low back pain at some time in their lives.⁠1 ⁠2 So you and I are not alone.

(Wouldn’t that make a great birthday card? Happy 18th birthday! Party hard, because now you have an 8 out of 10 chance of hurting your back!)

So listen. I’m an emergency doctor who loves books. I decided to tackle this sucker by writing THE EMERGENCY DOCTOR’S GUIDE TO A PAIN-FREE BACK, which releases Thursday, April 21st.

Obligatory disclaimer: I am a doctor, but I’m not your doctor, so you have to go see your own health care  practitioner. All I can do is give you helpful advice on treatment and prevention.

I pored over research articles. I read other books and considered both traditional and integrative approaches, including acupuncture, yoga, and diet. What struck me is that some people want to give advice without anchoring it on research, so I’m proud to say that I included studies written right up until January 2016.

The other thing that struck me was that a lot of fact-based books were super dull, so mine is short, funny, and full of cartoons and pictures because hey, life is short.

Here are three tips for readers and writers:

1. You don’t have to be a book lover to get back pain. Even sitting all the time doesn’t automatically cause back pain⁠ 3, although it does predispose you to other problems (coronary artery disease, diabetes, breast and colon cancer ⁠4…I know! I’m full of good news today!). So try to get up and move throughout your day.

2. After you go see your doctor, you may well get diagnosed with non-specific low back pain. More than 85 percent of the time, we don’t find a particular cause.5 I consider that good news, because you don’t want the herniated disc, fracture, infection, or cancer. You want to get better. Fast. And to do that…

Kathleen can do it. So can you!
3. “Don’t tell me I have to exercise,” groaned more than one writer-friend on Facebook.
Yes, I’ve got triple good news for you. You do have to exercise once you get over your initial agony, or to prevent it in the first place. Exercise and education reduce your risk of a back pain episode by 25 to 40 percent, as shown in a 2016 meta-analysis by Dr. Daniel Steffens and colleagues at the University of Sydney. They considered 21 randomized control trials of 30,850 people.6

There’s no hard evidence on which type or amount of exercise is best. “It seems to matter less exactly what type of exercise you do than that you do it in a regular way,” said Dr. Timothy S. Carey, a physician at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, who co-authored a commentary on the mega-study by Steffens.

So choose exercise that you like, and do it. Cardio, core, strength training, flexibility, and working your upper and lower limbs were all included in that mega-study.

Since we’re all busy, I developed a three-pronged exercise program where you can even work on your strength and flexibility in bed, at work, and while watching TV. My program is meant to be accessible to everyone. Look at my friend Kathleen. She’s a senior citizen, and she’s hitting it hard. With my book!

Click cover to preorder e-book now for a special price of $5.99 (regular price $9.99).
Direct Amazon.com link here.
Bottom line: most of us will get back pain sooner or later. As someone who loves words, you’re already at at advantage to prevent it through education. Keep reading and start moving, and you'll save your energy for more fun stuff like cat detectives and hard-bitten thrillers.


1 Deyo RA, Tsui-Wu YJ. Descriptive epidemiology of low-back pain and its related medical care in the United States. Spine. 1987; 12:264.
2 Cassidy JD, Carroll LJ, Côté P. The Saskatchewan health and back pain survey. The prevalence of low back pain and related disability in Saskatchewan adults. Spine. 1998; 23:1860.
3 Chen SM, Liu MF, Cook J et al. Sedentary lifestyle as a risk factor for low back pain: a systematic review. International Archives of Occupational and Environmental Health. 2009 Jul, 82(7): 797-806
4 Lee I, Shiroma EJ, Lobelo F et al. Effect of physical inactivity on major non-communicable diseases worldwide: an analysis of burden of disease and life expectancy. The Lancet. 380(9838): 219-229
5 Deyo RA, Weinstein JN. Low back pain. N Engl J Med 2001;344: 363-70
6 Steffens D, Maher CG, Pereira LS, et al. Prevention of Low Back Pain: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis. JAMA Intern Med. 2016 Jan 11:1-10. doi: 10.1001/jamainternmed.2015.7431. 

10 comments:

janice law said...

Good luck with your new book!
And you are absolutely right: religious exercising is the key to a reasonably happy back.

Melissa Yi said...

Hooray! I'm glad it worked for you, Janice.

Eve Fisher said...

Everybody needs this book! What keeps me mobile is daily stretches and exercises (prescribed by a physical therapist) and (in winter) a heating pad at night. Oh, and regular massage therapy! Back pain is just part of being human... Dammit.

Melissa Yi said...

@Eve, yes on all counts! ;) I'm so glad that you're using stretching, exercise, heat, and massage--and a matter-of-fact attitude. Clearly, you sleuths have already deduced what works for you.

Leigh Lundin said...

Congratulations on your book, Melissa. My parents with their very different physiques often suffered from back pain. I got hit from both sides!

REBECCA jones said...

Quite an informative post on back pain. I have been suffering from this terrible pain and now considering acupuncture for pain relief. Would be visiting a reputed acupuncture Mississauga clinic for that.

Farber said...

Yuan-Innes practices yoga regularly and occasionally teaches near her home in Glengarry. She hurt her own back last year and when she was researching ways to get better she became inspired to write her own evidenced-based book.

Olivia Princess said...
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Owais5100 said...
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Kyle said...
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