Can exercise really prevent back pain? Which ones should I do?

Experts believe exercise can prevent low back pain. Specific exercises can be done to strengthen individual back muscles. Stretching exercises increase trunk flexibility, which is also important.

Physical activity and general movement helps increase blood supply to the muscles, joints, and discs. The belief is that improved circulation minimizes injury and enhances repair when microtrauma or other more serious injury does occur.

Studies of patients with low back disorders also show that active exercise is important in improving mood and decreasing stress. Both of these factors are linked with improved general health and preventing chronic back pain.

It's not clear yet exactly which exercise is best -- only that exercise in general seems to make a difference. More study is needed to sort out who should do what -- both to prevent back pain and to recover from an episode of back pain.

Nathalie Roussel, MT, PT, et al. Reliability of the Assessment of Lumbar Range of Motion and Maximal Isometric Strength. In Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. April 2006. Vol. 87. No. 4. Pp. 576-582.

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