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Low Back Pain Prevention

Low back pain (LBP) is a common and burdensome health problem worldwide. It can range from occasional dull back aches to sudden sharp pains that make it hard to move; and in some cases, it can lead to disability, lost time off work and early retirement


Fortunately, most episodes of back pain get better quickly and often do not require expensive treatments or imaging. Some back pain, however, can be longer lasting, becoming chronic and may be accompanied by other factors such as psychological distress, fear of pain and movement, smoking, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease (3-5). For these people multidisciplinary interventions may be required to help recovery (6).

So, what can be done to prevent LBP?

Many studies indicate that regular exercise in combination with education helps to reduce the risk of developing LBP and lost time off work (1). It is also worth noting that keeping active and avoiding bed rest usually helps to speed up recovery from non-specific LBP, as well as reducing the risk of developing chronic LBP and other chronic health diseases (1, 3, 7).

Backing this up further, the World Health Organisation (WHO) recently released physical activity guidelines that highlight the importance of reducing sedentary activity (such as sitting) and undertaking both aerobic and muscle strengthening activities on a regular basis, for optimal health outcomes
(7). These evidence-based guidelines reaffirm that adults should aim to achieve 150 min (2.5hrs) of moderate intensity, or 75 min of vigorous intensity aerobic activity per week (or some equivalent combination) for optimal health outcomes. For children and adolescents 60 min of moderate to vigorous physical activity per day is recommended (7).


  1. Steffens D, Maher CG, Pereira LSM, Stevens ML, Oliveira VC, Chapple M, et al. Prevention of Low Back Pain: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis. JAMA Internal Medicine. 2016;176(2):199-208.
  2. Disease GBD, Injury I, Prevalence C. Global, regional, and national incidence, prevalence, and years lived with disability for 328 diseases and injuries for 195 countries, 1990-2016: a systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2016. Lancet. 2017;390(10100):1211-59.
  3. Buchbinder R, Underwood M, Hartvigsen J, Maher CG. The Lancet Series call to action to reduce low value care for low back pain: an update. PAIN. 2020;161.
  4. Oliveira CB, Maher CG, Franco MR, Kamper SJ, Williams CM, Silva FG, et al. Co-occurrence of Chronic Musculoskeletal Pain and Cardiovascular Diseases: A Systematic Review with Meta-analysis. Pain Medicine. 2019;21(6):1106-21.
  5. Trinderup JS, Fisker A, Juhl CB, Petersen T. Fear avoidance beliefs as a predictor for long-term sick leave, disability and pain in patients with chronic low back pain. BMC Musculoskelet Disord. 2018;19(1):431.
  6. Kamper SJ, Apeldoorn AT, Chiarotto A, Smeets RJEM, Ostelo RWJG, Guzman J, et al. Multidisciplinary biopsychosocial rehabilitation for chronic low back pain: Cochrane systematic review and meta-analysis. BMJ : British Medical Journal. 2015;350:h444.
  7. Bull FC, Al-Ansari SS, Biddle S, Borodulin K, Buman MP, Cardon G, et al. World Health Organization 2020 guidelines on physical activity and sedentary behaviour. British Journal of Sports Medicine. 2020;54(24):1451-62.