Skip to main content

Soothe your achy, breaky back

Back pain prompts millions of visits to the doctor ever year. A study suggests one way to improve on your doctor's result: listen to music.

Researchers from the University of Salzburg in Austria followed 65 patients with slipped discs or recent back surgery. All were given physiotherapy; half also spent 25 minutes a day listening to music while followed guided imagery relaxation exercises. After three weeks, the music listeners had pain levels much lower than the other group.

The researchers did not distinguish between the effects of music and of relaxation, but a previous study found the pain relieving effect of a music only group slightly greater than that of a guided imagery only group.

Music is thought to lower levels of chemicals that relay pain, says psychologist Franz Wendtner. Study subjects used a special CD. But, Wendtner says, "any relaxing music with quiet rhythm will do."

Sitting on backstretcher chair.

Are you sitting comfortably?

The slightly odd looking backstretcher chair is worth a try if sitting at a desk all day makes your back ache. It feels a bit uncomfortable at first, but the chair improves posture and reduces muscle tension and you can lean against the roller in the backrest for a mini shiatsu [Japanese for finger pressure] massage.

"The act of sitting is intrinsically damaging to the spine," inventor Neil Summers says, "but the backstretcher chair gives your back a siesta."