Healthy Body

This Online Course From Harvard Health ‘Puts the Brakes on Back Aches’

Erin Bunch

Photo: Stocksy/Lumina

As anyone with a pulse knows, health care in America is out-of-control expensive. It’s also currently more difficult to access because of the added coronavirus exposure risk when we visit the doctor. So, any new method for getting health help with a low barrier to entry and affordable cost is a welcome one, even when it comes from the unlikeliest of sources: a Harvard education.

The notoriously not-cheap Ivy League institution (tuition for this year neared a whopping $50,000) is now offering “Back Pain: Finding Solutions for Your Aching Back,” a $30 ($30!) online course aimed at helping the millions of people who suffer from back pain. And while I’d expect no less from such a prestigious university, the affordability is…genius?

Approximately 16 million adult Americans report chronic back pain, with many millions more experiencing episodes at random. It can be debilitating, and let’s be honest—the non-ergonomic makeshift home office situations many of us bootlegged back in March are not exactly a boon to back health. And while going back to school isn’t the most obvious solution to this widespread issue, it actually makes a lot of sense as an innovative first step to care in these trying and tumultuous times.

The course, which you can take at your own pace and on your own timing, is essentially a primer on what’s causing your pain, your various treatment options, and how to exercise the area at home for best (and safest) results. It explores a variety of back pain topics including bulging disks, compression fractures, strains, and sprains and is taught by Leonaura Rhodes, MD, a medical writer for Harvard Health Publishing and Mallika Marshall, MD, a physician who just so happens to also be an Emmy award-winning journalist, too.

The digital program culminates in a bonus interview with Jeffrey N. Katz, MD, author of Heal Your Aching Back: What A Harvard Doctor Wants You to Know About Finding Relief and Keeping Your Back Strong, associate professor of medicine and orthopedic surgery at Harvard Medical School and co-director of the Brigham Spine Center.

The course portal offers an option to gift the course to someone else, too, which honestly isn’t the worst idea for a vulnerable loved one who can’t risk going to the doctor for back pain right now, even if it’s also sort of the equivalent of gifting socks (so useful, and you wouldn’t buy it for yourself!). If you’re thinking of going this route, consider partnering the class with an acupressure mat or one of these eight recovery tools.

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