Exercise can help low back pain, obesity can hurt, study shows

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel—October 10, 2013

The more obese a person is, the more likely the risk that they will suffer from low back pain, but they may be able to reduce the odds by engaging in a moderate amount of exercise, according to a recent study.

The research paper is the latest to link weight and exercise to one of the most common conditions afflicting Americans and one of the first large studies to use an objective measure to study the condition: accelerometers that track a person's daily exercise levels.

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For years, anecdotal evidence has led spine specialists to tell overweight people to lose weight and exercise. Now there is hard data to back up those beliefs, said Michael Reed, a physical therapist and spine specialist with Hospital for Special Surgery in Jupiter, Fla.

One question the study could not answer is why obesity increases the risk of low back pain.

Two leading theories are that it causes mechanical changes that affect the spine or that it causes metabolic changes that lead to varying levels of hormones and inflammation.

"I suspect it could be a combination of the two," Reed said.

Either way, Reed said, increasing activity, which can be as simple as gardening, heavy house work or a walk around the neighborhood, can help reduce low back pain.

Read the full story at jsonline.com.

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