Exercise prevents low back pain

A review of medical literature suggests that exercise, alone or in combination with education, may reduce the risk of low back pain, according to an article published online by JAMA Internal Medicine. Daniel Steffens, Ph.D., of the University of Sydney, Australia, and coauthors identified 23 published reports (on 21 different randomized clinical trials including 30,850 participants) that met their inclusion criteria.

The authors report that moderate-quality evidence suggests exercise combined with education reduces the risk of an episode of low back pain and low- to very low-quality evidence suggests exercise alone may reduce the risk of both a low back pain episode and the use of sick leave.

Other interventions, including education alone, back belts and shoe inserts do not appear to be associated with the prevention of low back pain.

“Although our review found evidence for both exercise alone (35 percent risk reduction for an LBP [low back pain] episode and 78 percent risk reduction for sick leave) and for exercise and education (45 percent risk reduction for an LBP episode) for the prevention of LBP up to one year, we also found the effect size reduced (exercise and education) or disappeared (exercise alone) in the longer term (> 1 year).

This finding raises the important issue that, for exercise to remain protective against future LBP, it is likely that ongoing exercise is required,” the study concludes.

Low back pain (LBP), also known as lower back pain or lumbago, is a common disorder involving the muscles and bones of the back. It affects about 40% of people at some point in their lives. Low back pain may be classified by duration as acute (pain lasting less than 6 weeks), sub-chronic (6 to 12 weeks), or chronic (more than 12 weeks). The condition may be further classified by the underlying cause as either mechanical, non-mechanical, or referred pain.

A series of exercise routines you can do to help reduce any lower back pain (occasionally referred to as low back pain), including tension, stiffness and soreness.

These exercises help to stretch, strengthen and mobilise the lower back.

When starting out, go gently to get used to the movements and work out how far you can go into each position without feeling pain.

Aim to do this routine at least once a day if the pain allows. You can complement this routine with walking, cycling and water-based activities.

You are advised to seek medical advice before starting these back pain exercises, and to stop immediately if you feel any pain.

1. Bottom to heels stretch – Stretches and mobilises the spine

2. Knee rolls – Stretches and mobilises the spine

3. Back extensions – Stretches and mobilises the spine backwards

4. Deep abdominal strengthening – Strengthens the deep supporting muscles around the spine

5. Pelvic tilts – Stretches and strengthens the lower back

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