Support Animals for Back Pain

Support Animals for Back Pain

At a glance, getting a support dog doesn’t seem like the most effective way to deal with chronic back pain. After all, back pain is a physical ailment. No support animal can give a massage, prescribe medication, or generally do any of the things that we expect doctors and health care professionals to do when addressing a serious medical condition.      

However, research has shown that support dogs can be incredibly beneficial for people struggling with chronic pain, and the logic isn’t nearly as complicated as you would think. Dogs make people feel better. That has powerful psychological and physiological health benefits that can make back pain far more manageable, regardless of the cause.

So how does a support animal help with back pain? Simply put, pain makes you anxious. Beyond the obvious physical discomfort, pain interrupts the day-to-day course of your life, limiting your mobility and increasing the amount of stress you feel as you go to work, run errands, and do chores. Support dogs lower cortisol levels in the body, which reduces stress and anxiety in a way that makes everything else a little easier.

The presence of a support dog (or another support animal, if you’re not a dog person) can also trigger the release of endorphins, which act as natural painkillers and lessen the intensity of pain and its related symptoms. That makes a support dog a viable, cuddly alternative to prescription painkillers or marijuana.

A service dog can provide additional assistance in more severe cases. Unlike a support animal – which only offers emotional comfort – a service dog is trained to perform basic physical tasks. For instance, a service dog can pick items up off the floor and lift them to a more comfortable hand level. That allows you to avoid certain movements (like bending over) that could aggravate the back and cause your pain to flare.

That’s why people with chronic back pain might want to consider a support animal. On its own, a support animal not a sufficient treatment. You’ll still need to build core strength and flexibility and consult with your doctor to figure out what other steps you should take to address your discomfort. However, a support animal can be an important part of your treatment plan that improves your life and amplifies the gains you receive from the rest of your regimen.

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