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Oct 25

Lower back pain: Exercise is the cure but there is a catch – Sydney Morning Herald

The title of the research sums up the problem: "People considering exercise to prevent low back pain recurrence prefer exercise programs that differ from programs known to be effective."

Lead author Giovanni Ferreira from the Institute for Musculoskeletal Health said the research found the longer the program, the less likely they were to participate. The institute is a research partnership between Sydney Local Health District and Sydney University.

Mr Ferreira said previous studies had shown exercise did reduce lower back pain if there was ongoing commitment. "It is like [reducing] high blood pressure, you can't do one month of exercise and that's it," he said.

Cost was also a factor. For every $10 increase in the cost of these programs, researchers saw a significant decrease in willingness to exercise among people from low and middle incomes. And people on lower incomes were less likely to prefer exercise as a solution than others.

Whether someone was in pain at the time they were being surveyed made no difference to answers.

Andrew Murray from Baulkham Hills has suffered back pain intermittently for nearly 30 years. It is occasionally bad enough to prompt him to take a day off work.

Mostly he heads to the physiotherapist, where he goes through exercises to improve his flexibility and core strength. It helps. But once the physio tells the 49-year-old construction project manager that he should keep on exercising by himself at home or the immediate pain goes away, he stops.

Andrew Murray who has suffered back pain for many years near his Baulkham Hills home in Sydney's west.Credit:James Alcock

"It is out of sight, out of mind," Mr Murray said.

The research into people's attitudes was prompted after Sydney University attempted in 2018 to recruit participants for a free three-month program to prevent back pain entailing group sessions and some one-to-one work with a physiotherapist.

"Many declined. It was too much commitment. And most people that got into the trial failed to attend some of the group sessions," Mr Ferreira said.

Lower back pain is the leading cause of disability globally.

The research recommends the development of strategies to increase motivation and confidence toparticipate in exercise-based prevention programs. It also suggests that people with low back pain should be advised explicitly about which exercise programs reduce recurrence.

As a result of the study, the university is looking for participant to join a trial of a walking program to prevent low back pain

Julie Power is a senior reporter at The Sydney Morning Herald.

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Lower back pain: Exercise is the cure but there is a catch - Sydney Morning Herald

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