Can This Tough Regime Really Cure Backache? Good Health / Analysis

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Byline: BONNIE ESTRIDGE

THE last thing you might imagine doing if you have a bad back is working out with weights, playing badminton or exercising in a gym. Yet that is exactly what you will be asked to do if you enrol for a revolutionary treatment that is working wonders for some back pain sufferers.

This approach was pioneered during the Second World War when an acute shortage of highly trained aircrew and manpower meant men had to be returned to their duties in the best possible physical and mental condition in the shortest possible time.

Now, to reduce the 105 million working days lost in this country each year because of back pain, the method has beene updated and made available to the public. Spring Medical Active Rehabilitation Centres offer courses through the NHS or privately at the Royal Masonic Hospital in Chiswick, West London and hope to open more centres soon.

The first three-week course started in January and the therapy team is headed by Paul Mills who trained as a remedial gymnast and physiotherapist and was a PE officer in the RAF.

`More traditional methods for treating back pain - bed-rest, painkillers, individual physiotherapy and so on - can often help, especially during the early stages of treatment,' says Paul. `But often treatment provides little lasting relief and may lead to sugery as a last resort.

`Our aim is to get people with chronic and debilitating back pain to lead normal lives again as quickly as possible and to teach them to manage their problems successfully at home afterwards.'

Candidates first undergo a thorough physical assessment. `They have to be stable medically,' Paul explains, `but they also have to be highly motivated and want to work hard to get better.

`We also teach basic anatomy so that patients understand why correct posture is so important when undertaking lifting and carrying techniques.

`By the end of each course almost everyone has achieved a considerable reduction in pain or is pain free. Medications are reduced and there's no continued need for surgical corsets and sticks.

`A game of badminton may not sound like any big deal but if you've had five years of pain and haven't even contemplated walking to the corner shop, it's like you've climbed to the top of a mountain!'

Bob Wilsher, 49 and national sales manager for British Gas, could not agree more. suffered a violent spasm in his lower back three years ago.

`We were on holiday in France and I ended up lying on the floor in my hotel room for three weeks. A French doctor got me on my feet with pain killers just so I could come home. …