Editor’s note: Wellness Word is an informational column which is not meant to replace a health care professional’s diagnosis, treatment or medication.

It Is Not Exercise, But Physical Fitness That Counts

By Hari Dass Khalsa, DC

If you are like most people, you will have at least one episode of low back pain in your lifetime. In fact, low back pain is the #2 reason Americans see their doctor – second only to colds and flu. Low back pain is most commonly associated with heavy physical work, lifting or forceful movement, bending or twisting, awkward positions, or standing in one position too long. Even minor events may contribute to an episode. Typically, pain varies from severe and long-term to mild and short-lived.

Although low back pain has been considered self-limiting, recent research suggests that it is not. The results of several research studies show that short-term symptoms do not always resolve in 1 to 2 months. Instead, they tend to recur intermittently in most patients.  Once chronic, the condition is associated with long-term disability and work absence.

Healthcare research teams have concluded that exercise helps reduce pain and improve function in people with low back pain.  Exercise can also be preventive, but exact exercise types and goals have been elusive.

An international medical team examined the relationship between physical fitness and low back pain. They discovered that higher levels of physical fitness, both muscular endurance and aerobic, were associated with about a 40% reduced risk of low back pain. However, both low and high levels of physical activity were associated with about a 40% increased risk of low back pain. Thus, physical activity of an intensity that improves physical fitness helps prevent low back pain, but excessive exercise and no exercise do not.

What does this mean to someone with low back pain or someone wanting to reduce the chance of a low back pain attack?  The answer is to measure your current level of fitness for spinal muscular endurance and aerobics. Then develop an exercise program that increases your fitness. Please note that before starting any exercise program, you should consult with your healthcare professional.

Dr. Hari Dass Khalsa is a chiropractor specializing in the non-surgical treatment of spinal conditions with offices located in the Hawthorne District. 503.238.1032