Sore back? Get active!

If you’re like most people who suffer from lower back pain, you’ve probably been told that you should be getting more exercise. At the same time, you might worry that exercise could be bad for your condition. Fear not, and get out there and move! A report in the British Medical Journal says that even a few weeks of exercise classes can reduce your back pain and give you a wider range of “normal” physical activity.

Dr. Jennifer Klaber Moffett and researchers from the Universities of York and London studied 187 adult men and women, who had complained of low back pain for one to six months. A control group got no extra treatment other than that provided by their doctor, while others completed a progressive exercise program, with stretching and strengthening exercises, relaxation techniques, and classes on back care.

After only six weeks, the exercise group had less distressing pain and less disability than the control group. What’s even more interesting is that after six months, the differences were even greater, and greater still after one year. At the one year mark, almost two-thirds of the exercisers had improved their score on a 24-point disability scale by at least ree points, while only one third of the control group had similar results.

Exercise also helped them miss less than half the amount of work than the control group, and in general make far less use of health care resources. The study’s authors emphasized that people should really try and overcome fears of damaging their backs further through exercise. As the study shows, careful exercise can produce a lot of positive back benefits.