The importance of physical fitness in managing lower back pain is often overlooked. It's not just your heart and lungs that benefit from being fitter. Your muscles, joints and bones all benefit greatly from regular exercise - the human body is designed for movement.
There are two important things to think about here in relation to the importance of fitness in managing lower back pain:
So, one of the key ways to manage lower back pain is by improving your general physical fitness with cardiovascular exercise. This works in a number of ways.
Because increasing your physical fitness has such a big effect on your whole body you must make sure you are medically well enough to start exercising. You must check with your doctor before embarking on a physical fitness programme.
The amount of exercise you should do is a bit controversial but it seems that for many people performing any kind of exercise three to four times a week seems to be ideal (3). I would suggest 20-30 minutes- 3-4 times a week is a good target to aim for.
WARNING - this will be too much for some of you to start with
Many people with chronic lower back pain need to pace their return to exercise in order to gradually build on physical fitness without causing an aggravation, or a flare up, in symptoms which then lays them low for a few days. I would suggest a gradual paced return to exercise if you feel that increasing your activity levels will lead to flare up of your symptoms. See this section on pacing and grading your return to full fitness.
Some of you will also lack confidence and fear movement in case it makes your symptoms worse.If this is the case it is important that you read about yellow flags and barriers to recovery.
It really isn’t as difficult as it seems. There are many things that can be integrated into your daily life that will help you improve your physical fitness. Here are some examples:
1.Hayden JA et al. Exercise therapy for treatment of non-specific low back pain. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2005
2.Liddle S D et al. Exercise and chronic low back pain: what works?. Pain. 2004;107(1-2):176-190.
3.Lee;Chung et al Cross-sectional view of factors associated with back pain. International archives of occupational and environmental health, May 2005, vol. 78, no. 4, p. 319−24,
4. Smeets et al Do patients with chronic low back pain have a lower level of aerobic fitness than healthy controls?:Spine, 1 Jan 2006