Low back pain is a common complaint and one that causes excessive absence from work. Many doctors recommend an exercise program for these patients aimed at returning them to normal activity levels. But many people with lower back pain avoid exercise because of the pain involved.
A new study suggests people with low back pain can benefit from regular exercise, even if it hurts.This study was conducted among the employees of an airline company in the Netherlands. About 135 workers who had regularly missed work due to low back pain were assigned to either usual care or to a physical exercise program supervised by a physiotherapist.
Workers in the treatment group exercised twice a week for an hour. The program consisted of general and individually tailored exercises, both of which had to be performed during each session. General exercises were aerobic in nature, such as cycling or rowing, or strengthening. The strengthening exercises consisted of floor abdominal sit-ups, dynamic back extensions, leg-presses, latissimus pull-downs, and standing up from a low chair.
The individually tailored exercises were based on work-related tasks. For example, a worker who reported back problems while lifting suitcases from a luggage wagon onto an airplane might be instructed to practice lifting and moving a suitcase a set number of times. The physiotherapists insisted the workers continue to exercise, despite any pain or discomfort.
All the workers in the study were followed for six months. Those who participated in the exercise program missed only 58 days of work, compared to 87 missed days of work for those receiving usual care.