Chronic Back Pain Breakthroughs

If you've ever suffered back pain, you're not alone; about eight in ten Americans will experience it at some point in their lives. But there's hope: Doctors and scientists are exploring new treatments to ease temporary and chronic back pain. Here are a few of the success stories.

By Michael J. Weiss from Reader's Digest | July 2007

The Lumbar Wrap: Daily Therapy Decreased Back Pain

Infrared rays were discovered in 1800, but it took another two centuries to figure out how to harness their power to reduce back pain. The Lumbar Wrap, created by Canadian inventor Lawrence Gordon of IR Wraps, resembles the black support belts worn by people who frequently lift heavy loads.

The device uses low-level infrared energy—the same type of heat used to warm food in restaurants—to improve blood circulation and promote healing. In a small study in 2006, researchers at the Rothbart Pain Management Clinic in Ontario found that the Lumbar Wrap reduced painful symptoms by half.

The 39 adults in the study, who had suffered lower back pain for more than six years, found relief with daily therapy over the course of seven weeks, and reported decreasing pain levels when turning and bending in different directions. Gordon invented the belt after hurting his own back while training horses, and says other back pain sufferers have felt better wearing the belt while sleeping or doing daily activities.

One potential side effect: Prolonged use can cause a relatively harmless browning of the skin. And at $2,335, the Lumbar Wrap isn’t cheap.

Gordon is trying to get his invention approved as a medical device in Canada and the United States, in the hope that it will become more widely available, through doctors, chiropractors and pain clinics.

Next: Less-invasive back pain surgeries that yield more relief