Physical Activity and Low Back Pain

It’s common for individuals with low back pain to avoid any movement they feel may worsen their condition. Over time, this behavior can lead to deconditioned back muscles, setting the stage for either prolonged back pain or later recurrence. That’s one reason why treatment guidelines recommend patients continue to be active during the recovery process. But what about physical activity before back pain occurs? Does exercise reduce one’s risk for back pain in the first place?

In a 2019 study, researchers reviewed data concerning 4,246 Finnish men and women (average age 34 years) and found that those who routinely engaged in five or more sporting activities and/or endurance sports (especially running and cycling) were less likely to have radiating or non-radiating back pain. Meanwhile, those who focused on strength training only had a reduced risk for radiating back pain. The authors concluded that participating in a diversity of sporting activities, especially endurance sports, may be best for reducing the risk of both radiating and non-radiating low back pain.

Another study that analyzed data concerning 4,022 men approaching middle age revealed a clear relationship between lower physical activity levels and a greater risk for chronic low back pain. This finding persisted even after researchers controlled for obesity, which is also a risk factor for back pain. 

A 2020 study that utilized data concerning 7,565 older men came to a similar conclusion. In the study, researchers calculated each participant’s total physical activity levels and found that the more one moved during the day, the lower their risk for chronic low back pain. The data show that even intermediate levels of physical activity cut the risk for chronic low back pain by as much as 25%.

The findings of each of these studies suggest that staying physically active can reduce one’s risk for low back pain during each phase of adulthood, especially with the utilization of endurance exercises. If you’re suffering from back pain and have become inactive, Pro Rehab Wilmington and Dr. James Sheehan can help identify simple exercises you can perform at home to increase your physical activity levels and help you get out of and stay out of pain.

Author
Dr. James Sheehan Dr. James Sheehan is an expert in the treatment of neck and back pain.

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