Strength Training Best for Reducing Back Pain

by Ryan Halvorson on Apr 29, 2009

Making News

According to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality Medical Expenditure Panel Survey, back problems accounted for 139 million doctor visits in the United States in 2005 and cost $17.6 billion. With such a prevalence of back pain, it’s more than likely that fitness professionals will come across those suffering from the condition. But research suggests back pain relief may come in the form of strength training.

The authors of a study published online ahead of print in The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research (February 7, 2009) set out to determine the best method for low-back-pain rehabilitation. The 27 subjects with back pain were divided evenly into three groups: resistance training, cardiovascular training and a nonexercise control. During the 16-week study, the resistance training group performed exercises using dumbbells, barbells and other equipment. (The types of exercises performed were not made clear in the study report.) The cardiovascular group used either a treadmill or an elliptical machine.

At the end of the study, the resistance training group decreased body fat percentage and “improved most musculoskeletal fitness, pain, disability and quality of life outcomes.” The cardiovascular group made improvements in body composition as well as flexibility and cardiovascular output, but no progress was made with regard to back pain.

“The primary finding was that periodized resistance training was successful at improving many fitness, pain, disability, and quality of life outcome measures, whereas [cardiovascular training] was not,” stated the authors. “This study indicates that whole-body periodized resistance training can be used by training and conditioning personnel in the rehabilitation of those clients suffering with chronic nonspecific low-back pain.”

To learn more about exercise and low-back pain, look for the following resources at www.ideafit.com:

  • “Help for Low-Back Pain,” by Catherine Fiscella, MSPT, September 2005 IDEA Fitness Journal.
  • “Yoga for Chronic Pain,” by Kelly McGonigal, PhD, June 2006 IDEA Fitness Journal.
  • “Back in Action: Contributing Factors and Corrective Exercises for Low-Back Pain,” by Eric Beard, MS. DVD from 2008 IDEA Fitness Fusion Conference.

IDEA Fitness Journal, Volume 6, Issue 5

© 2009 by IDEA Health & Fitness Inc. All rights reserved. Reproduction without permission is strictly prohibited.

About the Author

Ryan Halvorson

Ryan Halvorson IDEA Author/Presenter

Ryan Halvorson is the publications assistant for IDEA Health & Fitness Association. He is a speaker and regular contributor to health and fitness publications and a certified personal trainer.

3 Comments

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  • Rhonda Johnson

    I agree as well! Most people say they can't workout due to a bad back, and that's exactly what they need! You have to strengthen the back muscle so they are strong. I find that a good mix of strength training, pilates, and stretching reduces back pain significantly. I also find the foam roller to be an absolutely- have to implement -tool, especially due to bad posture habbits to even the younger generations today! Having experienced back pain with scoliosis first hand, I know the importance of consistent exercise long term! But more so, love to hear it when a client says...."you know, my back hasn't been hurting since I have been coming to you working out"!
    Commented Nov 30, 2011
  • Patricia Jarrell

    I have experienced this first hand with clients who suffer from chronic back pain. When they are consistently working out (3 weight training sessions per week), their back pain is minimal. When this schedule is upset, due to travel, for example, their back pain increases significantly. In my experience, stretching is also an important asset to the workout, but the results of this study are of no surprise to me!
    Commented Nov 26, 2011
  • Patricia Jarrell

    I have experienced this first hand with clients who suffer from chronic back pain. When they are consistently working out (3 weight training sessions per week), their back pain is minimal. When this schedule is upset, due to travel, for example, their back pain increases significantly. In my experience, stretching is also an important asset to the workout, but the results of this study are of no surprise to me!
    Commented Nov 26, 2011

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