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Go to Back School, lesson pain

Back pain is one of the most common medical problems, affecting 80 percent of people at some point in their lives, according to the National Institute of Arthritis. It can come in many forms from lower back pain, leg pain or sciatica, leg cramping and hip pain.

Common causes include disc problems, nerve or muscular involvement and arthritis. Many people have found help managing their symptoms at Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital’s Back School Program.

In the hospital’s rehabilitation department, physical therapists help patients address their various spinal diagnoses by teaching movement retraining, core strengthening and stretching. The group of therapists who run the program report educating the patient in the above three areas has had the best long-term impact on symptom management.



“I haven’t taken pain meds in months. I used to lose 10 days per month of work, now I can work every day,” said Richard Harrison, who attends the program weekly.

Movement retraining in the Back School entails educating the patient in how to maintain good alignment of the spine within their daily activities. This means limiting bending and twisting with the things we do regularly such as sleeping, vacuuming, lifting, sweeping or raking.




“I found out how bad my sleeping positions were. With help I modified the position and after two years the position feels normal and comfortable. It was the best thing I ever did but the hardest thing I ever did,” stated Jan Friend, a longtime participant.

In order for people to maintain good alignment of their spine, they also need adequate core strength. Therefore, the Back School teaches patients how to strengthen their core muscles safely.

“I have a fragmented disc. They are teaching me exercises to strengthen my upper and lower back and how to protect it. I am really ecstatic about my recovery!” said Tom Tomasello, who is one of the newest members.

“When I do the strengthening exercises it actually relieves the pain. I am going to continue to do the exercises at home,” said Hettie Malech, another patient with lower back pain.

Stretching is also an important component of Back School. Thorough instruction on how to stretch the hip/pelvic girdle muscles and the spine is covered with an emphasis on maintaining good alignment during positioning.

Brandy Reynolds, who hurt her back and participates in the Back School, reports that the type of spinal stretching she was shown really helped.

“Using traction has been the only stretching that relieved the pain in my back. After I finish, I feel a lot better and can move for a couple of days.”

Greg Goode, who has had multiple back injuries and surgeries, summed up the final goal of the Back School program: “Once you get injured, you lose a lot of your motivation. This program helped hold me accountable and provided me with the guidance I needed to move forward.”

Sierra Nevada Memorial’s Back School Program is supported by many of the local physicians. Dr. Joel Richnak of Mountain View Rehabilitation routinely refers patients to the program to, “get the management skills they need to continue on with a home maintenance program.”

The program is open to anyone experiencing back pain or even those interested in more information about how to manage their spine.

A physician referral is required and further questions can be directed to the Rehab Department, located at 375 Brunswick Drive, Grass Valley, (530) 274-6170.


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