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Pain Management Behavior Clinical Research Abstracts Exercise

Walking Promotes Benefits For Lower Back Pain

1 month ago

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Posted on Jun 21, 2024, 3 p.m.

Approximately 800 million people around the globe have lower back pain, and lower back pain is a leading cause of disability and reduced quality of life. Recently a clinical trial conducted by Macquarie University's Spinal Pain Research Group investigated whether walking could be an effective, cost-effective, and accessible intervention for lower back pain. Their findings have been published in The Lancet

Repeated episodes of lower back pain are very common, with 7 in 10 patients who recover from an episode going on to have further recurrences within a year. The best practice for managing and preventing pain is to suggest a combination of education and exercise, far from past recommendations of bed rest. This is beneficial and may work for most people, some forms of exercise are not accessible or affordable to everyone due to cost, complexity, location, and the need for supervision among other reasons. 

The study

This trial called the WalkBack Trial, followed 701 adult participants who had recently recovered from an episode of lower back pain. The participants were randomly placed into either an individualized walking program with 6 physiotherapist-guided education sessions or 6 months, or a control group. 

The participants were followed for between 1 to 3 years to collect information about any recurrences of lower back pain, depending on when they joined. 

What they found

"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," said Professor Mark Hancock, Macquarie University Professor of Physiotherapy, and the paper’s senior author. "Walking is a low-cost, widely accessible and simple exercise that almost anyone can engage in, regardless of geographic location, age or socio-economic status.”

According to the Professor, the risk of having a recurrence that required seeking care was nearly halved in those in the intervention group, and after 3 months most of the participants were walking 3-5 days a week for an average of 130 minutes. Meaning that you don’t need to walk long distances every day to get these benefits. 

"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,” said Hancock. "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."

Improved quality of life

"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," says lead author and Postdoctoral Fellow Dr. Natasha Pocovi."The exercise-based interventions to prevent back pain that have been explored previously are typically group-based and need close clinical supervision and expensive equipment, so they are much less accessible to the majority of patients.”

"Our study has shown that this effective and accessible means of exercise has the potential to be successfully implemented at a much larger scale than other forms of exercise,” concluded Pocovi. 

As with anything you read on the internet, this article should not be construed as medical advice; please talk to your doctor or primary care provider before changing your wellness routine. This article is not intended to provide a medical diagnosis, recommendation, treatment, or endorsement. Additionally, it is not intended to malign any religion, ethic group, club, organization, company, individual, or anyone or anything. These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. 

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