Putting your feet up when you have a bad back will make your condition worse, experts warned yesterday.
Instead, the best way to soothe pain and improve mobility is to work out in the gym as often as four times a week, they claim. The research casts doubt on the widely held assumption that resting will reduce chronic back pain - suggesting this weakens muscles and could make the problem worse. It also contradicts guidance issued by the Government's rationing watchdog NICE last week.
This said there was little evidence that exercise helps relieve pain any more than 'traditional' treatments such as acupuncture. Instead, it urged doctors to give patients the choice of acupuncture or chiropracty, treatments dismissed as useless by most medical experts.
For the latest study, Canadian researchers followed 240 patients with chronic lower back pain. Resistance training with weights brought dramatic improvements in quality of life in only a few weeks. Those exercising four times a week reported 28 per cent less pain and 36 per cent less disability than the patients who rested.
Assistant professor Robert Kell, of the University of Alberta in Canada, said: 'If a person with a bad back doesn't go to a physician for advice, what they generally do is nothing. They say, my back hurts and I need to rest it. But actually it will become worse because their back muscles weaken. They actually aggravate the situation. Our research shows the opposite is the best policy, and exercise is good for your back.'