The 3 inevitable events in our society include death, taxes, and low back pain. Many of us will experience a significant episode of low back pain in our lives but the vast majority of these symptoms are not associated with serious pathology such as fracture or cancer. In our previous posts on low back pain we have detailed the risk of false positive findings on imaging (MRI and CT scans) and the cost of early, unnecessary imaging which contributes to the > 100 million we spend on low back pain each year. This cost is greater than what we spend on cancer or foreign aid each year. The high incidence of symptoms and money associated with low back pain has driven all types of passive treatments (electrical stimulation, creams, back braces, postural supports) and gizmos designed to reduce the symptoms of low back pain. Thankfully, there is an inexpensive, powerful tool which has the greatest ability to reduce the incidence of low back pain in our country.
Previous research has shown staying active with a strengthening program after an episode of low back pain can significantly reduce a client’s risk of recurrence. Exercise has consistently been shown to be the most effective treatment available to reduce a patient’s first time or future risk of low back pain. A recent review article in the Journal of the American Medical Association confirms these findings (Steffens et al. 2016). Authors reviewed 21 randomized controlled trials of various interventions for low back pain including a total of 30,000 patients. They found overwhelming support for exercise, regardless of type, to reduce a patient’s risk of low back pain. Patient’s who exercised had roughly half the risk of symptoms compared to their sedentary peers.