How many of us have uttered some back-related curse when getting out of bed in the morning, the day after helping our friend move, rising from our desk after eight hours of work, or following an all-star performance as a weekend quarterback with a bunch of middle-aged friends? Your back is involved in just about everything you do and when your back suffers, your life suffers. According to the Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluationís Global Burden of Disease Study, lower back pain is a leading cause of disability in most countries.
Fortunately, researchers at Australiaís University of Sydney and Macquarie University, as well as the Federal University of Minas Gerais in Brazil have determined that exercise is one of the most powerful tools to prevent low back pain. Published in the American Medical Associationís journal JAMA Internal Medicine on Jan 11, the research reveals that exercise alone or in combination with education is effective for preventing low back pain.
The study concluded that strategies such as education, sick leave, back belts or protective shoe insoles alone offer minimal improvement of back pain; however, exercise alone or in combination with back health education offered the best results in preventing low back pain. The study found evidence that exercise alone contributed to a 35 risk reduction for a lower back pain episode and a 78 percent risk reduction for sick leave. The combination of exercise and education contributed to a 45 percent risk reduction for a lower back pain episode. Interestingly, the positive effect decreased (exercise and education) or disappeared (exercise alone) in the longer term, which was defined as greater than one year). The researchers determined that, for exercise to remain protective against future lower back pain, ongoing exercise is required and prevention programs focusing on long-term behavior change in exercise habits are important.
According to the Mayo Clinic, back pain is most commonly linked to diseases like arthritis or osteoporosis, or through muscle or ligament strains, bulging or ruptured disks from heavy lifting or awkward movements, including sports injuries. These factors are exacerbated by poor physical conditioning, poor nutrition, smoking, obesity an even psychological events like depression and anxiety. Back pain is also linked to skeletal irregularities that may have existed since birth or that formed over time.
Exercise does not have to be extended periods of high impact, aerobic activities. Your back will thank you if you incorporate low impact exercise that supports biomechanically-correct movement and stretching, as well as proper breathing. Yoga is an effective means to prevent back pain and can be practiced in the privacy of your own home or in a social setting if you prefer to exercise in groups. Check out yoga for lower back pain to learn more about the value of this activity. And if your professional or personal life involves sitting for prolonged periods of time, you may want to read, yoga for people who sit.
Dr. Michelle Schoffro Cook, PhD, DNM is a registered nutritionist and international best-selling and 18-time published book author whose works include: 60 Seconds to Slim: Balance Your Body Chemistry to Burn Fat Fast!