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Exercise for back pain

June 7th, 2009

The biggest conference in sports science, the annual meeting of the American College of Sports Medicine, wrapped up last week in Seattle. It’ll take a few weeks to sort through the rubble and pull out the worthy new studies, but I figured I’d start with a University of Alberta study on back pain, since it’s something that will afflict about 80 percent of North Americans at some point in their lives.

Researchers took 240 people with chronic lower-back pain, and had them exercise with weights two, three or four days a week, or else not at all. The verdict:

“While it could be assumed that someone with back pain should not be exercising frequently, our findings show that working with weights four days a week provides the greatest amount of pain relief and quality of life,” said Robert Kell, lead author of the study…

Over the course of the 16-week study, the four-a-week group reduced pain by 28 percent, the three-a-week by 18 percent, and the two-a-week by 14 percent. Obviously we’ll need some more details of what, exactly, the exercise program consisted of — but it seems to jive with the general trend towards active recovery rather than immobilization.


  1. June 30th, 2009 at 13:08 | #1

    Strengthening exercises are important because the muscles must provide proper support for the spine. While you don’t want to further injure the back, you also cannot use back pain as an excuse to avoid working out. Your pain will only increase over time if you don’t get blood pumping through those muscles. I’m a Round Rock Texas chiropractor, and you really should ask your chiropractor for guidance on what exercises will help you.

    Lengthening exercises are important, too. Stretch those muscles, people! Most of the patients in my clinic who come in with chronic back pain also suffer from a lack of flexibility. Don’t tell me the two aren’t related!

    Dr. Eric Murphy
    Round Rock, Texas chiropractor

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