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Power-lifting For Chronic Low Back Pain: Better Than Body-weight Exercise For Pain and Function?

For many years now, our research into the treatment of low back pain has showed an active recovery is much more effective than only rest. However now we are in a time where we ask the question: What is the BEST type of exercise for low back pain? Today I will briefly run through a piece of research that compared two different exercise programs and showed its effect on people with chronic low back pain.

The Research

This study completed early this year compared two different treatment strategies:

  • Pain education with power-lifting inspired weighted exercise program. This included exercises like: Bench press, barbell back squats and leg press.
  • Pain education with a body weight exercise program This included exercises like: Lunges, bridges and sit ups.

Each group completed one supervised and 3 unsupervised session per week and both were assessed on pain, disability, and psychosocial measures from 8weeks to 6 months

The Results

At all different points in time, there was no significant difference in the groups, both experienced small improvements with the most improvement shown between 0 and 8 weeks. These improvements were also maintained at the 6 month follow up in compliant patients. Reductions in pain and disability were associated with improvements in self-efficacy and fear scores.

The Take-homes

I think the main take home after this piece of research is that any movement is good in the improvement of chronic low back pain. The ‘low back’ is composed of many strong ligaments, tendons and muscles that keep is strong through movements, either loaded or body weight.

The other lesson to be learnt from this study is about consistency of exercise. The improvements in pain and function were seen long after the initial treatment session in those who continued their prescribed exercise programs. This highlights that maintain improvements stems from finding the right exercise program for you. Finding a program and activity that you enjoy doing and will keep doing is far more important for you in the long term.

At Bend + Mend we always look to tailor your exercise program to your specific goals to help you down the road to recovery. If you have any questions about the information in this blog, please don’t hesitate to contact the clinic.


Reference: Gibbs MT, Morrison NM, Raftry S, Jones MD, Marshall PW. Does a powerlifting inspired exercise programme better compliment pain education compared to bodyweight exercise for people with chronic low back pain? A multicentre, single-blind, randomised controlled trial. Clin Rehabil. 2022 Sep;36(9):1199-1213.

Ben Cunningham

Ben graduated with a Bachelor of Physiotherapy degree from Australian Catholic University in Brisbane. After a move down to NSW, he has now joined the Bend + Mend Team and works at both Martin Place and Barangaroo clinics. Ben has a particular special interest in treating lower back pain (with referred pain) and running lower limb injuries and always uses the most up to date scientific evidence to assist his patient in reach their full potential. He is intrigued with how the body works and enjoys observing people and their movement patterns to help identify the root cause of complex pain. In his personal time Ben enjoys going to the gym and long distance running. He is also loves heading to the beach and finding new experiences around Sydney!

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