By Dr. Kent Stuber, BSc, DC, MSc
Low back pain is extremely common; around the world about 1 in 8 adults will have it at a given time. Between 80 and 90% of us will experience low back pain at some point in our lives. It is the number one cause of disability worldwide. Sadly, these rates of back pain really haven’t improved, and with our aging population they may not get better for a while.
So since back pain is such a problem, it leads one to wonder what would be the best way to prevent it? All you have to do is tune in to late night television and you’ll see a variety of different gadgets, toys, lotions, pills, and exercise videos touting the latest and greatest way to treat and prevent low back pain. However, most of those things aren’t particularly well researched and so it would probably be a good idea to look at what the scientific literature on the topic says. An international team of researchers led by a group from the University of Sydney did just that.
Dr. Daniel Steffens and his colleagues recently published an extensive review of the literature in a prestigious medical journal, JAMA Internal Medicine, in January 2016. In their review the authors looked at any randomized clinical trials that compared prevention strategies for low back pain with a placebo, no intervention, or minimal intervention (such as educational programs). In the end 21 studies were included in the review.
The authors found that education programs alone were not all that effective in preventing back pain in either the short-term or long-term. Meanwhile, exercise programs seem to produce some protective effect from back pain in the short-term, but not in the long-term. However, combining exercise and education seems to have the best chance of preventing back pain in the short- and long-term. As is a common refrain in health research though, clearly more research is needed, as many of the included studies were not high quality.
One of the most important things that we can take away from this review is that exercise is a key component to preventing low back pain. The question then becomes, what kinds of exercise are best? Researchers don’t seem to have an answer to that question yet. For now, it would appear that just exercising, any type that you enjoy and will do consistently to maintain or enhance your fitness is likely the best approach. The addition of education to exercise seems to be even more helpful potentially. As such please consider asking your chiropractor or physical therapist for more information on back injuries and more information on the spine and how it works (and doesn’t work).
For more information, or to book an appointment with Dr. Kent Stuber, please call Momentum Health West Springs at 403-453-3373
Dr. Kent Stuber, BSc, DC, MSc - Chiropractor
Dr. Stuber was born and raised in Calgary. He obtained a Bachelor of Science degree in Cellular, Molecular & Microbial Biology from the University of Calgary before moving to Toronto where he graduated Magna Cum Laude with Clinic Honours from the Canadian Memorial Chiropractic College (CMCC) in 2002. He graduated with a Master's of Science degree in Health and Social Care Research from the University of Sheffield in January of 2008, graduating with Distinction. Dr. Stuber’s post graduate education courses have included Graston Technique®, Active Release Techniques®, Kinesiotaping, Low-Tech Lumbar Spinal Stabilization Training, Managing Neck Pain Conditions, Evaluation and Management of Neck and Arm Pain, courses from the Titleist
Performance Institute, and Taping and Support Techniques for Sports Practitioners. Dr. Stuber is an active health care researcher. He is an Adjunct Professor in the Division of Graduate Education and Research at CMCC and an Associate Editor of the Journal of the Canadian Chiropractic Association. In 2008 he was the recipient of the Canadian Chiropractic Association's Young Investigator Award. Dr. Stuber has published over a dozen research papers in several peer-reviewed journals including Spine, the Journal of Manipulative & Physiological Therapeutics (JMPT), the Journal of the Canadian Chiropractic Association (JCCA), the Journal of Chiropractic Medicine(JCM), Chiropractic and Manual Therapies, Chiropractic & Osteopathy,