Back pain: Every lower back pain sufferer should be doing this, according to science

Exercise is proven to have a positive effect on lower back pain, even if researchers don't actually understand why

Back pain
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Back pain can be a real problem, especially if you spend all day sitting. If you don't have the best office chair at home, spending hours in an uncomfortable posture can lead to chronic pain issues. Fortunately, research has found physical exercise works to mitigate these pain problems – although scientists have yet to understand exactly why they work. 

One study, published by researchers from the University of New South Wales, conducted an evaluation on all the existing research on exercise and back pain. It was found "remaining physically active and being reassured it is safe to do so -- it is rare that chronic pain is caused by 'issues with the tissues' -- is probably the simplest, best advice for someone with chronic pain."

This could be structured exercises such as running, resistance training or going to the gym. However, other activities such as walking to lose weight, mowing the lawn, gardening or active hobbies such as surfing can all work to lower back pain. There are no specific recommended exercises to alleviate pain. 

Sitting down

(Image credit: Getty Images)

However, although the literature review concluded physical exercise worked to alleviate chronic lower back pain (CLBP), none of the existing papers were able to provide a definitive conclusion as to why it worked.

The study's senior author Dr Matt Jones, said: "Despite decades of research in the area and more than 100 studies we analysed in our review, we still do not have a good idea of why exercise might be effective for CLBP.

"A lot of treatments have stemmed from studies for people with CLBP (for example, medications, manual therapy, cognitive behavioural therapy), but the one with the most consistent evidence of benefit is exercise."

If you're finding it difficult to move or focus on tasks, even the least intense exercises can have a beneficial effect on your pain. Something as simple as walking around the block can provide a palliative effect, in addition to taking your eyes away from the screen.

If you can walk through nature, even for just a few minutes, your surroundings can provide a calming effect, lowering cortisol production and decreasing your blood pressure.

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Matt Evans

Matt Evans is an experienced health and fitness journalist and is currently Fitness and Wellbeing Editor at TechRadar, covering all things exercise and nutrition on Fit&Well's tech-focused sister site. Matt originally discovered exercise through martial arts: he holds a black belt in Karate and remains a keen runner, gym-goer, and infrequent yogi. His top fitness tip? Stretch.