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Exercise Helps a Little With Chronic, But Not Acute, Low Back Pain

Armen Hareyan's picture

Back Pain and Exercise

Exercise therapy slightly decreases pain and improves physical function in adults with chronic low back pain but appears to do little for those with acute pain, according to a review of evidence from a large number of studies on the subject.

In adults with acute back pain lasting up to three months, studies suggest that exercise programs that gradually increase activity can decrease absenteeism from work.

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Chronic low back pain tends to be long-lasting and may come and go, while acute pain hits suddenly and intensely, after lifting a heavy piece of furniture, for example.

Back pain is one of the most common occupational disorders in the United States., according to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. It may be acute, lasting last less than 6 weeks; subacute, lasting 6 to 12 weeks; or chronic, lasting more than 12 weeks.

"We found that adults with chronic low-back pain had modest improvements in physical function and pain with exercise therapy," says lead investigator Jill Hayden.

With her colleagues, Hayden, a research fellow at the Institute for Work