Newsletter Article

Exercise Treatment for Back Pain

According to the 2010 Global Burden of Disease Study, out of 291 health conditions, low back pain ranked first in terms of disability and sixth in terms of overall burden.[1] Reported in disability-adjusted life years, both the prevalence and burden of low back pain increased with age.

Strength exercises may help to decrease back pain as well as improve basic physical functions. In a recent study, participants took part in either resistance training, lumbar extensor exercises, or their normal daily activity (control group).[2] The resistance training and the lumbar groups both improved low back strength compared to the control group. The resistance training group had improved pain scores, but both of the exercising groups showed increases in walking endurance. This is important because it shows that overall strength training can improve walking and pain, but even low back exercises alone can improve walking performance.

If a person is overweight or obese, this increases stress on the spine and supporting musculature. Compared to people with normal BMI, a person with a BMI of 30 or greater is at a higher risk for developing low back pain.[3] There is also a greater recurrence of low back pain for those that are obese. If an obese person is reporting chronic low back pain, traditional back therapy methods may be effective, but for a long term solution, weight loss may be needed as well.

Specific exercises are always necessary to avoid back pain, and even very low levels of activity can help. It has been shown the physical inactivity results in a narrower intervertebral disc height and an increase in the fat content of the supporting musculature of the spine.[4] Inactivity is also associated with high-intensity pain and disability. Back pain doesn’t just hurt, it can have a dramatic effect our ability to perform everyday activities. Because low back pain is such a common cause of disability and pain, a greater effort is needed to educate people on how to prevent chronic low back pain before it starts.