Exercise Helps Long-Term, Not Acute, Back Pain
Best Low Back Pain Exercises: Stretching, Strengthening
May 2, 2005 -- Is exercise for low back pain worth the gain? Yes, studies
show -- but only for long-term low back pain.
Different doctors recommend different exercises for different patients. What
works? Jill A. Hayden, DC, of Canada's Institute for Work & Health, led a
team that analyzed studies evaluating exercise therapy in people with low back
pain that lasted at least three months. They looked at 43 studies of 72
exercise treatments. They found that stretching and strengthening exercises
worked best in patients with chronic low back pain to improve pain and
- For low back pain lasting six to 12 weeks, a program of gradually
- For acute low back pain -- lasting less than six weeks -- there's no proof
that exercise helps.
But these are only overall results, combining many different kinds of
exercise therapies. Hayden and colleagues suggest that individualized treatment
-- with plenty of professional supervision -- is most helpful.
And a lot is up to patients themselves. Those who stick with recommended
exercises tend to end up with the least pain and the best function.
"Clinically meaningful improvements in pain are possible," Hayden
and colleagues write. "The most effective strategy seems to be individually
designed exercise programs delivered in a supervised format (for example, home
exercises with regular therapist follow-up) and encouraging adherence to
achieve [lots of exercise]."
Stretching exercises were most helpful for relieving pain. Strengthening
exercises were most helpful for regaining function. And keeping up with
exercise was more helpful than exercise of less than 20 hours duration.
Also found to be helpful for low back pain:
- Staying active
- Using the over-the-counter pain relievers such as aspirin, ibuprofen, and
- Manual therapy
The findings appear in the May 3 issue of Annals of Internal