West Virginians are not strangers to back-breaking, hard work, whether it be laboring in the mines or standing on their feet all day tending to others, or even shoveling the daily snow or carrying totes of holiday decorations.
Low back pain is a leading cause of disability worldwide and is associated with substantial costs to both the patient and society. For many people, low back pain becomes a chronic issue when the pain persists for longer than twelve weeks.
Treatment for chronic pain generally includes medicines (which can lead to addiction), injections, and sometimes surgery. Exercise is another proven treatment; however, the idea of exercising when already dealing with low back pain is daunting at best. Nevertheless, research continues to show that exercise is beneficial despite the decades of research that cannot pinpoint the exact mechanism why.
Recently, a group of scientists sought to better understand why exercise helps chronic low back pain. They analyzed 110 randomized, controlled trials from the medical literature and identified a variety of possible mechanisms that fell into five clear groups. Not surprising, neuromuscular mechanisms (those dealing with improved muscle strength and endurance, motor control, and flexibility) were by far the most common. Psychosocial mechanisms (those relating to a decrease in fears of movement and potential of more pain) were the next most common. Other mechanisms included neurophysiological (relating to the release of endorphins and better stress control), cardiometabolic (relating to improvements in heart disease and metabolic disorders such as diabetes), and tissue healing (related to improvements in blood flow and bone and ligament integrity with decreases in inflammation).
Regardless of the why or how, exercise certainly helps chronic low back pain and in some cases is a healthy alternative to pain medication. According to the National Institutes of Health, exercises that strengthen core or abdominal muscles may help to speed recovery from chronic low back pain, because weak muscles cannot properly support the spine. Always check with your healthcare professional before starting any new fitness programs and consider working with a reputable, certified trainer to identify which exercise programs would work best for you and your lifestyle.
About the Author
Jennifer Minigh received her doctorate degree in biomedical science. She has produced over 200 publications in science, medicine, and other genres. In addition, she is a regulatory writer for major international pharmaceutical and biotech companies. See her latest book: Taming Your Monster Appetite: Find a Healthy Lifestyle You Can Live With.