Meta-analysis: Exercise can reduce recurrence of low back pain

May 19, 2016

By Bonnie Benton

Exercise, alone or combined with education, might reduce the risk of low back pain, according to a new systematic review and meta-analysis.

Findings were published Jan. 11 on the website of JAMA Internal Medicine.

For the review, Daniel Steffens, PhD, of the George Institute for Global Health at the University of Sydney, Australia, and coauthors identified 23 published reports on 21 randomized clinical trials, including a total of 30,850 participants that met their inclusion criteria. The authors report moderate-quality evidence suggests exercise combined with education reduces the risk of an episode of low back pain and low- to very low-quality evidence suggests exercise alone might reduce the risk of both a low back pain episode and the use of sick leave.

Other interventions, including education alone, back belts and shoe inserts do not appear to be associated with the prevention of low back pain, according to the review.

The evidence showed exercise and education led to a 45% risk reduction for an episode of low back pain for up to one year. The review also found exercise alone led to a 35% risk reduction for a low back pain episode and a 78% risk reduction for the person needing sick leave for a year.

“We also found the effect size reduced (exercise and education) or disappeared (exercise alone) in the longer term (more than one year),” the authors wrote. “This finding raises the important issue that, for exercise to remain protective against future LBP, it is likely that ongoing exercise is required.”

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