Research supports the efficacy of exercise in alleviating chronic lower-back pain. The mechanisms, however, have remained unclear. Enter Australian researchers from the University of New South Wales in Sydney, who analyzed 110 studies.

“Both in Australia and globally, low back pain (LBP) is the leading cause of disability and has been for the past few decades,” said principal investigator and study author Matt Jones, PhD, an exercise physiologist. “LBP is associated with a significant burden both for the individual and society . . . through healthcare costs.

“Chronic pain is tricky and there are a lot of factors that can contribute to it—so, it’s not simply biological aspects of tissue damage, but there are psychosocial elements at play, as well [as] things like a person’s mood or confidence in their own abilities to do something,” said Jones.

“There have been trends in research over time, where everyone focuses on a ‘flavour of the month’—like motor control or McKenzie therapy, for example—but because the effects of exercise are broad and it impacts on many different systems in the human body, it’s difficult for researchers to pinpoint exactly why they think it might be benefiting people with pain.”

Read the study in Musculoskeletal Science and Practice (2020; 51102307).

See also: Treatment Guidelines for Chronic Lower-Back Pain