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UF Health Rehabilitation Services provides tips to prevent and treat back pain

Published: August 10, 2017
Phyllis L. Hendry, M.D., FAAP, FACEP

Summer gives homeowners a great opportunity to spend time perfecting their yards. With all the rain, the grass is growing and the foliage is blooming. Every Saturday and Sunday, the sound of lawn mowers, edgers and weed wackers fill neighborhoods, but no one hears the grunts and groans from weekend warriors the next morning saying, “Oh, my back.”

This is very common, according to Jeff Yaver, a physical therapist with UF Health Rehabilitation Services – Jacksonville. “We spend lots of time using equipment to get our lawns and gardens in top shape, but we ignore the most important tool — our bodies,” Yaver said.

Back pain is the leading cause of disability in Americans under the age of 45, and more than 26 million people between the ages of 20 and 64 experience frequent back pain, according to the American Academy of Pain Medicine. Many treat back pain with a few ibuprofen and rest, but that’s not always the best approach.

The Pain Assessment and Management Initiative, or PAMI, aims to educate patients on how to effectively recognize and manage pain. Phyllis Hendry, MD, is an emergency medicine specialist and principal investigator for PAMI.

Hendry recommends doing exercises to increase flexibility, prevent strains and reduce overall back pain. She also suggests getting up and walking for three to five minutes every hour, along with taking a warm bath, using heating pads or ice packs on and off for 20 minutes, and getting a massage or acupuncture.

“Back pain is the second most common symptom-related reason for clinician visits in the United States,” Hendry said. “Up to 84 percent of adults have low back pain at some time in their lives.”

If the back muscles are overused, they will become inflamed, but the symptoms will subside in a few days. After the pain dissipates, inevitably, people will forget about the injury and move too quickly or pick up something too heavy, injuring themselves all over again. “

Specific damage to the spine usually occurs when stress to the muscles has accumulated,” Yaver said. “The back is made to keep us upright and protect our nervous system. It is not made to be a forklift, but that is how we all commonly treat it.”

Hendry explained that medication is only one aspect of treatment, and it’s important to remember the other factors that can contribute to healing: biofeedback, nutrition counseling or physical therapy. Yaver agrees.

“Back care can be broken down into two important areas: how we move and lift, and exercise habits. Using good body mechanics will decrease the stress we put on our backs on a daily basis,” Yaver said. “And having strong core muscles and flexibility in your legs will allow you to maintain the right positions, decreasing the likelihood you will end up in our office on Monday morning.”

There are many causes of back pain, so it’s recommended people schedule an appointment with their physician to determine the reason and best course of action. UF Health Rehabilitation Services – Jacksonville uses a multidisciplinary, team-based approach to provide individualized and comprehensive care. To schedule an appointment, call 904-633-0411 or visit

Phyllis L. Hendry, M.D., FAAP, FACEP

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UF Health Media Relations