Study suggests exercise prevents lower back pain

The NPR (1/12, Bichell) “Shots” blog reports that a study published in JAMA Internal Medicine analyzed 21 studies of treatment methods for lower back pain, “involving over 30,000 people in total.” The findings show that “back belts and show insoles didn’t seem to offer a benefit,” and that any kind of exercise “reduced the risk of repeated lower-back pain in the year following an episode between 25 and 40 percent.” In a corresponding editorial, Dr. Tim Carey at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill writes that healthcare providers don’t prescribe exercise enough, pointing out that “fewer than half of patients participate in an exercise program, even if they have long-term back pain.” Carey discovered that passive treatments, like ultrasound or orthotic insoles, were far more common. The discrepancy may be because of the health industry’s focus on “sellable products, and exercise isn’t one.”

TIME (1/12, Sifferlin) adds that about 80 percent of people will experience lower back pain at some point in their life. While exercise was found to be effective, “the researchers say it’s unclear whether these effects would last beyond a year.” The study authors write, “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.”