The new study, published Monday in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine, analyzed previous studies of treatment methods for lower back pain, which hits about 80% of people at some point in their life. The researchers concluded that based on the evidence available, exercise in combination with education (for example, information about lower back pain, posture or exercise ) was likely to lower the risk of lower back pain. While exercise alone was also found to be effective, the researchers say it’s unclear whether these effects would last beyond a year.
“This finding raises the important issue that, for exercise to remain protective against future [lower back pain], it is likely that ongoing exercise is required,” the study authors write.
Interestingly, the researchers found benefits from all sorts of different exercises, including back and abs strengthening, stretching, and range of motion exercises. Prior research looking at yoga specifically has found improvements in back pain for both men and women, possibly due to the combination of muscle strengthening and stretching. The researchers of the new study did not find strong evidence to support other strategies, like back belts or shoe insoles, to cut back on pain.
In a corresponding editorial, Dr. Timothy S. Carey and Janet K. Freburger of The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill write that lower back pain recurrence is common—about 24% to 80% of episodes recur in the first year. It’s important for physicians to recommend exercise and for those who have experienced back pain to stay motivated and continue exercising, the researchers wrote.
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