Woman with hand on lower back, mid section
Back pain is so common that most of us will experience it at some point in our lives. Back pain can be anything from an annoyance to a debilitation. Due to advances in technology back pain has become much easier to treat through physiotherapy, but prevention is always better than cure. There are many products available on the market to help you prevent back pain, but there hasn’t been any real evidence to suggest that these actually work.
 
A recent study by Daniel Steffens, a chronic back pain researcher at the University of Sydney, has found that back pain prevention is simple, although it requires effort and time. Data was analysed from 23 studies with a total of 30,000 participants. The results proved that exercise alone could reduce the risk of low back pain by 35%. When participants received instruction and education on how to exercise they were 45% less likely to experience low back pain. Clearly it is not enough to just ‘go and exercise’ and that to cut our risk of back pain we need knowledge on how to exercise effectively without causing injury. To make sure you are exercising properly ask your gym to help inform you on how to use the equipment, or go to a class with qualified instructors. We have written about injury prevention for a variety of different sports, including running on our sports injuries page.
 
‘This review provides concrete evidence on the value of exercise for preventing back pain. If a medication or injection were available that reduced the recurrence of low back pain to the extent seen in this review from exercise, we would be reading the marketing materials in medical journals and viewing them on television.’ Wrote back-pain researchers Dr. Timothy Carey and Janet Freburger, of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
 
Study participants exercised two or three times per week in a gym, clinic or at home, many different types of exercise were shown to prevent back pain, not just exercises involving the spine. Exercise can improve our posture, fitness and the strength of our core muscles. Exercise also cuts down our time spent in front of a screen. Many of us spend a lot of time at a desk at work or in front of a smart phone at home, which can be damaging to our spine and posture.
 
To see the benefits of exercise it is necessary to do it long term. When choosing a new exercise regime make sure it can realistically fit into your schedule and that you are able to keep it up. Mixing up activities such as running or swimming once a week, walking in the country side on weekends and doing an hour of yoga at home may work better for you than aiming to go to the gym three times a week. Making a simple change such as walking to work instead of taking the car can also prevent back pain.
 
Gentle exercise can also relieve some symptoms of back pain. It’s tempting to curl up in bed when you’re afflicted with back pain but it’s important to keep moving. Studies have shown that patients who take to more than three days of bed rest for back pain feel more pain and have a harder time with daily activities than those who have kept active. We would recommend staying away from strenuous exercise and it’s best to avoid activities that caused the pain in the first place, but gentle walking can do a lot of good. Exercise alone may not fix your back problem, if you are suffering from back pain then a physiotherapist can help, whether the pain is recent or has been around for years. If you’d like advice about an existing back problem then please call us on 0114 268 6677 or email info@sheffieldphysiotherapy.co.uk.