IF YOU’RE BATTLING back pain, your first instinct probably isn’t to hit the gym. But there’s still good reason to get moving.
According to a 2018 American Journal of Epidemiology review of 16 prior studies, people who regularly exercise are 33 percent less likely to develop lower back pain. Plus, a 2017 Pakistan Journal of Medical Sciences study suggests that strengthening the core is an effective way toreduce chronic back problems.
In the 2017 study, 120 people with chronic lower back pain performed either core-strengthening exercises or a routine of traditional physical therapy exercises three times per week. After six weeks, those who performed core-strengthening exercises reported significantly greater reductions in pain compared to those who didn’t work their core muscles.
“I’m willing to bet that in almost every case of back pain, even in patients with osteoarthritis, muscular imbalances play a role,” says physical therapist Sean Kinsman, content development lead for Trainer Rx, a physical therapy training app.
When the muscles that surround and help stabilize the spine aren’t strong enough to properly function, other structures have to pick up the slack, he explains. That means the back’s bones, ligaments, tendons and cartilaginous structures like the spinal discs can experience excessive stress, he says.