Eric Parent has two words of advice for people with back pain: Keep moving.
Parent, an associate professor of physical therapy at the University of Alberta, has devoted most of his professional working life to understanding back pain, and the most effective means of treatment.
A physiotherapist in Quebec City in the 1990s, Parent says he was frustrated by the sheer number of patients who came to him complaining of back pain, particularly lower back pain.
“I wanted to improve my understanding of the theory behind what we were doing at the time,” says Parent, now 40, “which was mostly manual therapy—mobilization of the lumbar spine.”
|University of Alberta associate professor Eric Parent has spent most of his career researching the most effective treatment for back pain.|
He said by that time the myths about bed rest as the optimal treatment for back pain had been largely debunked, but there was still a lot of work to be done.
Wooed by the chance to be mentored by Michele Crites-Battie, an internationally renowned researcher on lower back pain, Parent moved to Edmonton in 2000 to do his PhD at the U of A.
Through his work with her, and subsequent research, Parent and his colleagues came to understand that activity and movement were by far the best means of treatment.
“Patients may feel a bit more physically sore for a short period of time, but there was nothing to indicate a worsening of their condition, and in many cases it was just exercise-induced muscle soreness as their body adapted to the challenge.”
A lot of the research now is focusing on what types of exercise programs work best for each patient, understanding there is no one-size-fits-all remedy. Still, says Parent, what is clear is that people with back pain have tremendous power to heal themselves.
“When I was a private practitioner, my patients were looking for somebody else to fix the problem,” says Parent, “but now we know that they can do most of the work themselves just by moving and staying active.
“Really, it’s in the hands of the patient, not in the hands of the therapist.”
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