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April/May 2010 (vol. 06/6)

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Research Plus

Low back pain and exercise

Two systematic reviews examined the effect of exercise on low back pain (LBP). A Cochrane review looked at evidence for exercise as a means of preventing LBP recurrence1. It identified 13 papers reporting nine intervention studies. Four were post-treatment programmes intended to prevent LBP recurrence, while five covered exercise regimes that formed part of the treatment itself. There was moderate-quality evidence that post-treatment exercises can reduce the rate and number of LBP recurrences. Sickness absence duration (total days) was reduced by post-treatment exercises, but there was no effect on the rate of sickness absence (number of spells over time) – suggesting that exercise participants returned to work earlier from sick leave than those in ‘usual care’. There was conflicting evidence for the efficacy of the exercise treatment programmes on LBP recurrence. The second study looked at the effect of exercise on work disability due to non-acute LBP2. It identified 23 studies meeting inclusion criteria, 20 suitable for meta-analysis. There was a significant long-term benefit of exercise compared with ‘usual care’ (work disability odds ratio = 0.66) but no significant improvement at short- or medium-term follow-up. Regimes involving more contact hours of exercise were no more effective than those of lower duration.

  1. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2010; 1: article no. CD006555. DOI: 10.1002/14651858. CD006555.pub2.
  2. Journal of Rehabilitation Medicine 2010; 42; 193–205.


Occupational Health at Work April/May 2010 (vol. 06/6) pp48-49