Should You Keep Working (or Playing) If You Have Back Pain?

Michael Brantley, a star outfielder for the Cleveland Indians, suffered back pain even before the season began. Like many others in professional sports, he apparently was — and possibly still is — trying to “play through the pain.”

Meanwhile, many, many others who work in other jobs suffer back pain and similarly try to “play (or work) through the pain” — in many cases because they feel they have no choice. But from the perspective of healing your pain, is this the best thing to do?

Bed Rest for Back Pain: What Does the Research Say?

It used to be standard to recommend prolonged bed rest to heal back pain, and many physicians still do recommend it. However, now research shows that continuing on with your daily activities leads to better flexibility while bed rest alone may make back pain worse (while also leading to depression, blood clots and decreased muscle tone).[i]

As explained by Kush Goyal, MD, a medical spine specialist in the Center for Spine Health and the Department of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation at the Cleveland Clinic:[ii]

“It is very important to stay active even with back pain. Bed rest is a common misconception for acute back pain. The worst thing you can do is to “do nothing” or remain bed-ridden for several days.

This is because the muscles and supporting structures weaken with inactivity and can lead to more back pain. It is important to stay as active as possible within your normal exercise regimen, always listening to your body as your guide.”

It’s now advised that people with back pain resume normal activities as much as possible, and even engage in exercise to speed recovery.[iii] This means that if you work an office job and sit for long hours, you should take frequent periods to break up the sitting, for instance by going for a 5-minute walk every hour or two. When you do sit, adding an appropriate seat cushion will help you sit without pain.

That being said, if you’re in serious pain and find it difficult to stand or sit comfortably from the pain, a few hours of rest may provide some relief and give you a much-needed break.

To take a break from your back pain, try resting on your bed or couch using one of these three positions (remember, this should only be a short break, not extended bed rest):[iv]

  1. Lying on your side with pillows between your knees
  2. Lying on your back with pillows under your knees
  3. Lying on your stomach with a pillow under your hips

Finding Relief in Movement

should you work with back painStruggling with back pain can set you up on a vicious cycle of inactivity and fear that ultimately makes the pain worse. Many are afraid of injuring their spine or worsening their pain, so they start to shy away from activities that they perceive as painful. This cycle can turn an episode of back pain into a lifelong problem.

There are some exceptions. If you have shooting leg pain or problems with bowel function, you should see a physician before engaging in physical activity. And depending on your type of pain, you may be better off avoiding certain household chores – or at least amending how you do them – until the pain has subsided.

For typical back pain, however, movement will ultimately provide you with relief, so it’s important to open your mind to the idea that the more you move and strengthen your body, the better your back pain will be. As reported by the New York Times:[v]

“In a review of the research on doctors and back pain, Dr. [James] Rainville [the chief of physical medicine and rehabilitation at the New England Baptist Hospital in Boston] found that in deciding on treatment, doctors are heavily swayed by their patients’ resistance and their own fears of making pain worse.

Combine a fearful doctor and a fearful patient, and the result may be a prescription for painkillers and a day or two of couch-surfing, an outcome that many medical professionals say is still alarmingly prevalent. It would be better, back specialists say, to prescribe exercise along with psychological counseling to help patients manage both pain and fear.”

A Strong Body is Less Prone to Pain

should you work with back painStrength training may be particularly beneficial. In a study of 240 people who had chronic, non-specific lower-back pain (but no back surgery, damaged vertebrae or nerve root problems), those who engaged in weight training improved their quality of life by 28 percent. The more often the participants trained, the better their results turned out to be.

A whole-body approach is best. Bench presses for the chest, lateral pull-downs for strengthening the back, and leg presses were all associated with reductions in pain and disability. Lead researcher Robert Kell, an assistant professor at the University of Alberta, told USA Today:[vi]

“Why does increasing strength even make a difference? … Let’s say you garden or go out for a full day of activities and come home tired. We are more apt to injure our backs if we are fatigued. By increasing overall strength, it makes it easier for us to complete activities of daily living.

… A lot of work is done with the upper body that is strenuous, so it’s important to have strong chest and back muscles so you don’t hunch forward … It’s also important to have strong leg muscles, because if you reach down to pick something up and your legs are fatigued, you’ll lift more with your back.”

Ultimately, You Want to Stop the Pain, Not “Live With It” and “Push Through It”

Stopping the pain and treating the cause of it, of course, are essential. And if I were advising Michael Brantley, here in very brief format is what I would recommend …

  • Relieve the pain fast with:
  1. Far-infrared heat — far-infrared heat has therapeutic effects, helping to boost your circulation, break down and flush out toxins from your tissues, relax muscle cramps and more.
  2. A powerful but safe pain cream
  3. Spinal decompression therapy (inversion therapy)
  • Relieve the pain long-term and fight the chronic inflammation that causes the pain (essential!) with proteolytic enzymes. When you take proteolytic systemic enzymes, they help break down scar tissue in your body, allowing blood flow to increase, which promotes healing, all while fighting inflammation.
  • Fix the underlying cause of the pain with muscle balance therapy. Postural dysfunctions are a primary cause of back pain, as they lead to significant muscle imbalances that may manifest into serious back pain. The good news is that once your muscle imbalances are corrected, posture dysfunctions resolve themselves and the pain caused by these muscle stressors goes away.

Whether you’re Michael Brantley or anyone else suffering from back pain, you DO NOT NEED to be sidelined by it or “play through it.” I encourage you to learn more about each of these steps below so you can relieve you pain fast, relieve your pain long-term and fix the underlying cause of the pain for permanent relief.

Top Recommendations When You Need Relief

1. Far-Infrared Heat: The Deep Heat collection of far-infrared heating pads sends warmth up to 20 times deeper below your skin than conventional electric heating pads. This heat stays with you for up to six hours and increases your circulation, which promotes healing so the pain stays away. Better still, these unique heating pads don’t come in “one-size-fits-all” sizes, which decidedly do not fit everyone’s unique aches and pains. You can choose from three unique shapes and sizes.

2. Rub on Relief, which contains a blend of ingredients we carefully selected to address pain and inflammation from a slightly differently angle.

3. Back Ease: Instead of turning you upside down, the Back Ease — Spinal Decompression System lets you comfortably decompress your spine by simply leaning into the device. It decompresses and stretches your spine, creating a separation in your vertebrae, relieving pressure on your spinal discs and nerves. The result is short-term (sometimes instantaneous) pain relief coupled with long-term maintenance and healing.

The Back Ease is a device I personally recommend everyone use (even those without back pain) due to its amazing ability help improve and maintain mobility, correct alignments from your shoulders down through your spine to your hip as well as heal and strengthen your spine over the long term.

Top Recommendation for Proteolytic Enzymes to Relieve Your Pain Long-Term

In your body, systemic enzymes are known for fighting inflammation and stimulating your immune system, both crucial for pain relief and healing. Even better, the proteolytic enzymes in Heal-n-Soothe® are combined with 11 other ingredients, including ginger, which helps to stimulate blood flow for even more improved circulation.

As the enzymes break down scar tissue and blood flow increases, your painful areas will also be flooded with oxygen, which brings further pain relief.

Top Recommendation to Fix the Underlying Cause of Your Pain

The Lose the Back Pain® System takes you step-by-step through the process of identifying the exact muscle imbalances you have. It then gives you the targeted stretches and exercises you need to get fast back pain relief. Thousands of physicians prescribe this system, and tens of thousands of people like you have already experienced its lasting results. Take a minute to learn more now about this amazing, and lasting, back pain treatment.

should you work with back pain



[i] National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, Low Back Pain Fact Sheet

[ii] Cleveland Clinic

[iii] West J Med. 2000 February; 172(2): 121.

[iv] Harvard HEALTHbeat

[v] New York Times September 15, 2005

[vi] USA Today June 9, 2009

Filed Under: Back Pain
Written By:  Updated:
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Jesse Cannone, CFT, CPRS, MFT

Jesse is the co-founder and visionary CEO of The Healthy Back Institute®, the world-leading source of natural back pain solutions. His mission as a former back pain sufferer is to help others live pain free without surgery and pharmaceuticals.

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