Research published this April has shed some light on what may help to prevent people experiencing lower back pain. This study highlighted the importance of vigorous physical activity. The research also links back pain to sitting for long periods and with having a depressed mood.
Fahad Hanna and his colleagues collected data from 479 staff working at Qatar University in offices. More than half of the staff reported experiencing either lower or upper back pain or both. Lower back pain was more common in women. These findings are similar to other studies.
People were less likely to have lower back pain if they did higher levels of vigorous physical activity, and if they spent less time during the day sitting.
People who reported having lower back pain were more likely to experience a depressed mood. However we cannot be sure whether depressed mood was likely to be a consequence or cause of the pain.
There were some methodological flaws with the study, which include the fact that people ‘self-reported’ how much time they spend doing physical activity and sitting, which is less accurate than actually measuring activity levels.
However, this is a useful study with some similar overall themes to other studies.
Some key messages are:

  • Vigorous physical is likely to prevent low back pain and may be more beneficial than lighter exercise.
  • Sitting for long periods makes back pain more likely.

At ALO Physiotherapy, we have some top tips for preventing lower back pain in people who work in offices.

  1. Increase periods of vigorous physical activity.
    Vigorous activities take hard physical effort and make you breathe much harder than normal. Examples of these are: stair climbing, running, aerobics, fast swimming, fast cycling, walking up hills, some forms of dancing. Think about ways that you may be able to do more fun and vigorous activities in your week.
  2. Check how your desk is set up
    Ask for an assessment for your desk set-up to ensure you are working in optimal postures.
  3. Increase overall activity and reduce how much time you spend sitting.
    Look for small opportunities in your day. Are there moments in the day when you can switch to standing, for example: stand up to make a phone call, stand on the train, have a walking meeting with a colleague.

Of course, if you have a health condition which affects your ability to do these activities, you will need to seek some guidance from a health professional.
If you are already experiencing lower back pain, then starting vigorous exercise may be difficult for you. If you would like to return to a full and active life, at ALO Physiotherapy we can help you. If you would like to ease back pain naturally, without using painkillers, we can assess and treat you, enabling you to do the things you love.