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Walking Helps Prevent Low Back Pain Episodes

Great news for individuals with lower back pain. Which is a lot of us. A recent study found that the simple act of walking helps  with prevention of low back pain episodes!

In the study, persons who had recently recovered from an episode of lower back pain were randomly assigned either to 1) an individualized and progressive walking intervention, along with 6 sessions with a physical therapist over a 6 month period (to discuss the walking) or to 2) a no treatment control group. Afterwards, the walking group took an a median of 208 days until their next activity-limiting episode of lower back pain, while the control (no walking) group took a median of 112 days.

In other words, walking regularly resulted in going twice as long until the next occurrence of low back pain compared to non-walkers. They also had fewer occurrences of activity limiting low back pain episodes. Note that these were individuals (43 to 66 years) who had a history of low back pain episodes

How much did they walk? The walkers kept a walking diary, with the median 80 minutes of walking in week 1, which increased to 130 minutes by week 12. They walked a median of 3 times in week one, which increased to 4 times in week 12.

From Science Daily: Walking brings huge benefits for low back pain

Adults with a history of low back pain went nearly twice as long without a recurrence of their back pain if they walked regularly, a world-first study has found.

About 800 million people worldwide have low back pain, and it is a leading cause of disability and reduced quality of life. Repeated episodes of low back pain are also very common, with seven in 10 people who recover from an episode going on to have a recurrence within a year.

Current best practice for back pain management and prevention suggests the combination of exercise and education. However, some forms of exercise are not accessible or affordable to many people due to their high cost, complexity, and need for supervision.

A clinical trial by Macquarie University's Spinal Pain Research Group has looked at whether walking could be an effective, cost-effective and accessible intervention.

The trial followed 701 adults who had recently recovered from an episode of low back pain, randomly allocating participants to either an individualised walking program and six physiotherapist-guided education sessions over six months, or to a control group.

Researchers followed the participants for between one and three years, depending on when they joined, and the results have now been published in the latest edition of The Lancet.

"The intervention group had fewer occurrences of activity limiting pain compared to the control group, and a longer average period before they had a recurrence, with a median of 208 days compared to 112 days," Professor Hancock says.

"We don't know exactly why walking is so good for preventing back pain, but it is likely to include the combination of the gentle oscillatory movements, loading and strengthening the spinal structures and muscles, relaxation and stress relief, and release of 'feel-good' endorphins.

"And of course, we also know that walking comes with many other health benefits, including cardiovascular health, bone density, healthy weight, and improved mental health."

Lead author Dr Natasha Pocovi says in addition to providing participants with longer pain-free periods, the program was very cost-effective. "It not only improved people's quality of life, but it reduced their need both to seek healthcare support and the amount of time taken off work by approximately half," she says.

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