Individualized Walking & Education Program for Preventing Recurrence of Low Back Pain

Elderly couple enjoying a walk on an outdoor trail

A simple moral to this week’s research story…get your low back pain patients moving, and it can be as simple as walking!

Low back pain (LBP) is highly prevalent and disabling. It is also pervasive for many, as we know that approximately 70% of individuals experience a recurrence of back pain within 12 months following recovery from an episode. Such recurrences contribute significantly to the overall burden of LBP, both on a personal disability level and economically at a societal level. Individuals with recurrences of LBP are known to experience longer work absenteeism and incur higher costs compared to those without recurrence.

Evidence-based and clinical guideline concordant care for LBP includes a multimodal approach, including manual therapy, exercise and education. The combination of education and exercise has been shown to reduce recurrence of LBP, associated disability and work absenteeism. However, much of the existing research on exercise has been focused on group-based programs that require clinician supervision and the use of equipment, all of which can result in high cost and a potential barrier to access for some patients.

Walking is a low risk, inexpensive and accessible activity for most people, regardless of socioeconomic status or geographic location. Walking delivers numerous health benefits, including improved cardiovascular health, enhanced cognition and mood and even reduced risk of non-communicable diseases. Although these benefits are widely accepted, there is a paucity of research examining the potential benefit of walking for those with LBP.

The aim of this study was to investigate the clinical and cost effectiveness of an individualized, progressive walking and education program for preventing recurrences of LBP.

The results of this study show us that if widely implemented in conjunction with manual therapy, advice and other evidence-based interventions, a simple walking program could enhance patient outcomes and proffer numerous secondary health benefits that come with any form of exercise – a win, win!

In your practice tomorrow, prescription of a walking program could become part of your discharge instructions, or something to integrate after a few treatments, when the patient’s pain is hopefully improving. Get your patients moving and while they are out walking, they’ll tell everyone they see how amazing their chiropractor is!

This week’s Research Review: “Individualized Walking & Education Program for Preventing Recurrence of Low Back Pain

This paper was published in The Lancet (2024)

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