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Low Back Pain and Sciatica and Exercise

Read more about Exercise.

Overview

The human body was designed to use its physical capacities yet many of us have become sedentary. Not only does this have major effects on our weight and body mass index, but our muscles themselves, when unused, become weak and unable to function well. So, while decreasing strenuous exercise does have some benefits, such as reducing injuries, this decrease also presents major drawbacks.

Increasing strength and flexibility through exercise can be an extremely effective treatment for low back pain and sciatica.

Effect of Exercise on Low Back Pain and Sciatica

The theory behind exercise for back pain and sciatica treatment is that the more flexible are the muscles in the back, the less pain the back will have. Also, when muscles that support back muscles are strong, the actual muscles in the back will not have to work as hard, and thus be less susceptible to pain. Though exercise hasn't been extensively studied individually for it's effectiveness as a treatment for low back pain and sciatica, it has been studied in conjunction with other therapies such as chiropractic care, massage, and prolotherapy.

Research Evidence on Exercise

In one well-designed study, 2 months of chiropractic spinal manipulation and exercise therapy were studied, with chiropractic spinal manipulation proving to be marginally more effective than massage therapy.41

One study found that exercise (along with education) appears to enhance the effectiveness of massage when used as a treatment for low back pain and sciatica. In a review of 13 randomized trials, researchers concluded that massage may be effective for nonspecific low back pain, and the beneficial effects can last for up to 1 year in patients suffering from chronic pain.77

A subsequent controlled trial involving 579 patients with chronic or recurrent low back pain found that Alexander technique lessons, particularly when combined with exercise, was more effective than normal care or massage after one year.78

Both spinal manipulation and exercise have shown to help prolotherapy be more effective than control treatments.81

Side Effects and Warnings

It is important to pick a type of exercise and durations that are compatible with your physical health. If you have a serious health condition, consult with your physician before starting an exercise program.

A health condition or injury may prevent you from engaging in certain types of exercise such as jogging or bike riding but walking. Gentler forms of movement such as stretching or yoga may still be safe and beneficial options.

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