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The best exercise option for chronic low back pain

3-4% of adults below 45 years of age have chronic low back pain and 5-7% of adults over 45 years of age also suffer with persistent low back pain. Experts reveal that up to 60% of the adult population will have low back pain at some point in their lifespan.

Low back pain is deemed chronic when it has persisted for longer than 12 weeks, where the central nervous system becomes overly sensitive to low grade stimuli. A question often asked by patients is, 'what is the best exercise I can do to help my back pain?'. Exercise plans are very individual to each and every patient but if we looked at Pilates, mind-body, and core-based exercises, what does the research say?

A review of 118 trials (9710 participants with chronic low back pain between 18-65 years of age) revealed the most effective intervention for reducing pain and disability was Pilates (93% and 98% respectively). Mind-body and core-based exercises also yielded very favourable results for helping sufferers of persistent low back pain. In terms of frequency, it is advised to perform Pilates or strength exercises 1-2 times a week; sessions of less than 60 minutes of core-based, strength, or mind-body exercises; and training programmes from 3-9 weeks of Pilates and core-based exercises.

Fernandez-Rodriguez et al. (2022). Best exercise options for reducing pain and disability in adults with chronic low back pain: :Pilates, strength, core-based, and mind-body. A network meta-analysis. Journal of Orthopaedic Sports Physical Therapy. 52 (8): 505-521.


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