Exercise and Education Prevent Back Pain, Devices Do Not

Daniel Steffens, Ph.D. The George Institute for Global Health The University of SydneyMedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Daniel Steffens, Ph.D.
The George Institute for Global Health
The University of Sydney

Medical Research: What is the background for this study?

Dr. Steffens: Back pain is a leading cause of disease burden globally. At present, a variety of interventions, such as exercise, education, back belts and shoe insoles, are commonly prescribed to prevent an episode of low back pain. Guidelines lack clear recommendations for prevention of low back pain and the effectiveness of the range of possible prevention strategies for low back pain is not clear. Our study aimed to investigate the effectiveness of these interventions for prevention of low back pain.

Medical Research: What are the main findings?

Dr. Steffens: We found that exercise alone, or in combination with education, is effective for preventing back pain. In contrast, we also found that education alone, back belts, shoe insoles and ergonomic interventions do not prevent back pain or sick leave due to back pain.

Medical Research: What should clinicians and patients take away from your report?

Dr. Steffens: Although we found evidence that exercise (e.g. stretching and strengthening of back muscles), combined with an educational program (educational sessions on back anatomy, biomechanics, pathology and basic ergonomics) reduce in up to 45% the risk of low back pain at a short term (up to a year). We also found that this effect is reduced in longer terms (27% risk reduction). Therefore, the implementation of a regular and continuous back exercise program combined with educational session on back pain may help prevent back pain. It is also important to reinforce patients that previous strategies believed to prevent low back pain, such as shoe insoles and back belts, do not provide a protective effect from this condition.

Medical Research: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?

Dr. Steffens: The data for our review is mainly sourced from small trials. For this reason we are desperately in need of a large definitive trial to confirm this result. In addition, prevention programs focusing on long term behaviour changes in exercise seem to be important.

Citation:

Daniel Steffens, Ph.D. (2015). Exercise and Education Prevent Back Pain, Devices Do Not 

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