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Exercise vs Low Back Pain

Posted Oct 14 2013 3:00am
Earlier this month, just less than 2 weeks ago, I discussed a study demonstrating that exercise improved knee pain due to arthritis.  I've since pointed this out to many patients.  As you know, I also don't like to discuss meeting abstracts & papers, preferring to wait for publication in peer-reviewed journals.  However, as the blogger-in-chief, I reserve the right to change my standards on a whim, especially when the paper was presented at the North American Spine Society's recent annual meeting and its authors concluded that exercise can also reduce low back pain!

First, let's get some very interesting (and sad) statistics out of the way.  People w/normal weight as defined by a body mass index of less than 25 have a 2.9% risk of developing low back pain.  Those who are overweight w/BMI 26-30 have 5.2% risk while obesity w/BMI 31-35 increases risk to 7.7% & morbid obesity (BMI >36) to 11.6%.  In other words, risk for low back pain is linked to weight and more is not better.  But that's not all!

In tracking 6,796 participants of the National Health & Nutrition Examination Survey using simple accelerometers, the authors demonstrated that inactivity was also (independently) linked to low back pain.  For instance, overweight persons who increased their physical activity to less than 20min/d could reduce their risk for low back pain by 32%.  Truly amazing, yet sad, fact: average duration of moderate intensity activity was 1.3min in the morbidly obese.  Yet, increasing physical activity by just 60 seconds reduced risk for low back pain by 38%!  So rather than prescribe more narcotics, prescribe more exercise!

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