AP file photoStretching several times each week can help bad backs.

Exercise is key for dealing with low-back pain

Q. I’ve had chronic low-back pain for several years. But last year I was in a car accident, and since then my back has gotten worse. My doctor says to take stronger pain meds, which I don’t want to do. I know exercise is supposed to help, but I’m afraid it will make it worse. What should I do? — Elaine, via email

A. Healing chronic low-back pain is like curing the common cold: Whoever figures these out will win a Nobel Prize, and probably a Grammy, an Oscar and a lifetime pass to Disneyland, too.

Most low-back pain is due to muscle strains. You’d think not moving would help muscles heal, but the opposite is true. We definitely recommend gentle exercises designed for bad backs. New research has pinpointed two types that make such a difference that people who do them say their back pain gets better, much better or even completely goes away. That could be you!

Find a once-a-week class in either yoga or physical stretching that lasts for 12 weeks. Then practice at home three days a week. Stick with it. That’s all it takes. Studies that tracked people at three months, six months and, in one case, 12 months reported equally happy endings: A year after their first class, people who’d had chronic low-back pain remained much better.

We’d choose yoga because it has so many other mind-body benefits (why we both do it daily) — and interestingly, many of the stretching exercises had yogalike elements. But honestly, what you do doesn’t matter. Just do it.

The YOU Docs — Mehmet Oz, host of “The Dr. Oz Show,” and Mike Roizen of Cleveland Clinic — are the authors of “YOU: Losing Weight.” For more information go to www.RealAge.com.

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