Currently one in six Australians have low back pain of varying severity. Most of these will recover within 6 weeks. 30% of this group will have another episode within a year however. How do we ensure you don’t get back pain again within a year? You guessed it, exercise!
Research suggests we are 45% less likely to have a repeat episode of low back pain if you maintain a regular exercise program. But how do we know what we need to do and which exercises are best? A recent study on Australian adults with back pain looked at characteristics and behaviours of pain sufferers. The study found what we think we should do and what we actually need to do are quite different things.
This study reported people with low back pain preferred to exercise at home compared to at a gym, preferred low cost exercise programs and to exercise for shorter times. Unfortunately randomised controlled trials often point towards long duration and high frequency exercise programs, either in a clinic setting or in the workplace being more beneficial to patient’s recovery. The long story short is patients typically exercise for short periods and potentially miss the protective effect of a long term exercise program. To stay pain free requires long term exercise commitment.
While most low back pain sufferers choose to exercise, there are a large proportion of patients who choose not to. Typically these are over 50 year olds, low socioeconomic status and low self efficacy. Those who do not exercise have a higher chance of having another pain episode within a year than those who do exercise. So how do we help these people?
What we do know is exercise is the only intervention known to be effective for preventing the recurrence of back pain. Patients with low back pain tend to want to exercise but the type of exercise may not be what is needed to help them. Exercise is key to managing your back pain.
Exercise programs that have shown to help typically go for three months, organised rehabilitation classes give better results than solitary exercise, and regular exercises within the week is better than one off exercise sessions. There is no holy grail for which type of exercise is best. The point is you need to keep exercising, but in a safe and sustainable way!
We as Physiotherapists are specialists in exercise prescription. We understand everyone is different and requires their own specific style. This is why we offer regular pilates classes, guided home based exercise programs, running assessments, Telehealth consultations and gym technique tips. We provide motivation and assist with your needs!
If you suffer from low back pain, or any pain and would like advice please come and speak to one of our experienced and friendly Physiotherapists today.
Ferreira et al. (2020). People considering exercise to prevent low back pain recurrence prefer exercise programs that differ from programs known to be effective: a discrete choice experiment. Journal of Physiotherapy.