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  • JH Backcountry Health

Low back pain? What evidence shows will help.

As winter rolls in, even with woefully less snow than usual, we typically see an uptick in patients coming in with low-back pain. Understandably so – shoveling snow, carrying wood, lifting heavy gear, and slipping on pesky ice can put significant strain on the low back. This isn’t just a winter problem – low back pain affects at least 80% of all individuals at some point in their lifetime, and is one of the leading causes of pain and disability worldwide.

At JH Backcountry Health, our aim is to help you tackle all of your outdoor adventures and daily tasks without the hindrance of low back pain this winter (and for many seasons to come!). So, what are the most effective methods to improve low back pain?

Studies have shown that among non-pharmaceutical modalities, regular physical exercise, heat treatment, and manual therapy are the best treatments for treating acute low back pain.

Let’s break these down.

1. Regular resistance training has been found to effectively prevent and treat low back pain. Specifically, core stability exercises and hip musculature stretching and strengthening are the most effective tools against low back pain. Home exercise regimens have been found to reduce reported pain and functional limitation, and studies have found that working in a supervised setting with a personal trainer is most effective at reducing low back pain.

Enter: supervised rehab with our specialists, followed by consistent at-home rehab exercise! Here are some great examples of exercises that can be effective. When you come in for an appointment, our docs will diagnose the cause of your low back pain and determine the key exercises and movements for your specific case.

2. Applying heat to the low back has been found to be one of the most effective methods of relieving acute low back pain, in addition to exercise. Heat therapy works by increasing blood flow, metabolism, and elasticity of the connective tissues where the heat was applied. However, this is a shorter-term fix, as the reported benefits of heat therapy typically subside after around one week.

3. When we look on a medium and longer-term scale, one to six months from the beginning of low back pain symptoms, the combination of regular resistance training and manual therapy – like chiropractic - is the most effective way to reduce low back pain.


Nathan Patrick, Eric Emanski, Mark A. Knaub, Acute and Chronic Low Back Pain, Medical Clinics of North America, Volume 98, Issue 4, 2014, Pages 777-789. 

Kim B, Yim J. Core Stability and Hip Exercises Improve Physical Function and Activity in Patients with Non-Specific Low Back Pain: A Randomized Controlled Trial. Tohoku J Exp Med. 2020 Jul;251(3):193-206. 

Quentin C, Bagheri R, et. al. Effect of Home Exercise Training in Patients with Nonspecific Low-Back Pain: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2021 Aug 10;18(16):8430. 

Gianola S, Bargeri S, Del Castillo G, et al. Effectiveness of treatments for acute and subacute mechanical non-specific low back pain: a systematic review with network meta-analysis. British Journal of Sports Medicine. 2022 Jan;56(1):41-50. 

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