Study: Exercise Prevents Back Pain
John Briley, a long time proponet of exercise to improve health, and well known writer for the Washington Post, recaps the results of a recent study that indicates that exercise helps alleviate back pain as well psychological stress.
The article quotes William O. Roberts, an associate professor at the University of Minnesota Medical School and a past president of the American College of Sports Medicine, thusly: "Get people moving and it helps [address] their back pain,"
The study -- involving 681 men and women, aged 34 to 69, who sought treatment for low-back pain -- was published in the October issue of the peer-reviewed American Journal of Public Health.
All data were self-reported, including pain (on a zero-to-10 scale, with 10 representing unbearable pain), psychological distress, frequency and amount of physical activity, and frequency of low-back exercises. The average pain score was seven; 77 percent of the group said they had at least one day of restricted activity in the prior month due to back pain, and about 47 percent reported having had back pain for more than a year. Participants filled out questionnaires six weeks after enrolling in the study and again at six, 12 and 18 months.
Researchers converted exercise data for each participant into metabolic equivalent task (MET) values. Those who exerted at least 10.5 METs per week -- about the equivalent of three hours of brisk walking or similar activity -- showed the greatest reductions in back pain and psychological distress.
But back exercises increased the odds of subsequent low back pain and disability by 64 percent and 44 percent, respectively. And among the participants who did lower-back exercises, those who did them the least -- less often than one day per week -- reported the lowest pain levels.
Maddeningly, researchers did not collect data on which back exercises each person performed, nor did they determine why the exercises might worsen back pain. These failings reduce the value of the findings. Poor form and the wrong exercises may explain the negative results, they said.
The findings are not surprising, says William O. Roberts, an associate professor at the University of Minnesota Medical School and a past president of the American College of Sports Medicine.
Roberts also promotes core conditioning to address back pain.
It's generally felt that a strong core and strong abs can go a long way towards reducing many kinds of lower back pain.
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