One of the best parts of my job as a physical therapist is the opportunity I have to get to know my patients on a personal level. Physical therapists are unique in the healthcare field because we are able to spend a significant amount of one-on-one time with each of our patients (typical visits last about an hour). In comparison to the busy world of medicine, this is a welcome change of pace for patients. During this time together, I enjoy hearing their stories. I find the history behind my patient’s physical challenges and rehabilitation truly inspirational. A fairly unique aspect about working in such close proximity to a health club at the Fit Stop is to be able to see my patients through the transition from rehabilitation to wellness in the gym. I get excited when I see that transition happen!
For example, I have worked with several individuals who have suffered extensive injuries as a result of a car accident or other work-related injury. Following the arduous task of rehab in PT, many of these patients continue to independently perform their gym routine as was established in PT. Speaking from experience – each of these patients would be in a much worse state in regards to their pain and overall function if not for sticking with that routine. I guess there is no real way of proving that assertion. However, I read an article relating to low back pain the other day which seems to support that premonition in a pretty impressive way. A new systematic review published in JAMA Internal Medicine looked at the effect of exercise on low back pain. This study combined the results of 23 different studies, consisting of 30,850 participants. The results are quite impressive. They found that exercise alone was linked to a 35% reduction on low back pain risk and a 45% reduction when exercise was combined with education. Also, exercise was found to reduce the likelihood of sick days at work by 78%. Now, an interesting part of this analysis lies in the carryover of these benefits, because they were only found to be maintained for 1 year. However, there is reported in the study, that a significant dropoff in the exercise was found in some of the participants. This idea supports my “hunch” mentioned at the beginning of this post: for exercise to be an effective means of treating pain in the long run, IT HAS TO BE KEPT UP! For pain (particularly for low back pain as mentioned in this study), it’s vital that you keep doing the work, even when you start to feel better. If not, there is a good chance that your pain can return (and now we even have evidence supporting that thought!),
So, all this being said, what exactly does “exercise to prevent low back pain” mean. What are the best exercises to prevent low back pain? Well, we here on the Fit Stop blog have been preaching these exercises for some time now. I believe that a good, comprehensive exercise routine to prevent low back pain should consist of the following general components:
1. Aerobic Exercise: at least 30 minutes, 4-5 days per week of a moderate intensity (See our post: “How much physical activity do I need?”
2. Strengthening: 2-3 times per week, with focus on “core” muscle groups and leg strengthening (See our posts: “6 Core Muscles You Didn’t Know You Had – And How To Train Them!”, and “What are the core muscles and how do I strengthen them?”)
3. Flexibility training: 2-3 times per week (see our post: “5 Of The Best Stretches For Low Back Pain”)
So for low back pain, (and I personally believe this concept applies to most musculoskeletal pain out there) the idea is pretty simple: exercise=hurting less. My hardworking patients that have dedicated themselves to a life of consistent exercise at the Fit Stop have figured this idea out for themselves. Their commitment and effort is inspirational to me, and I am grateful to witness this on a daily basis.
Remember to come see us at Fit Stop PT if you have any questions about low back pain or any of the exercises mentioned above. We would love to address some of your concerns and recommend what kind of exercise is best for your low back pain.