Remember those old commercials where someone would get asked how they spelled relief?  Well, studies linked to back pain might as well be telling us that relief starts with the letter ‘E’. That’s because new data is telling researchers that exercise and education are the best ways to spell relief for your back.1

Back pain is such a prominent problem among people that all kinds of things have been invented in an effort to fight it. This includes ergonomic chairs, home massage kits, shoe inserts, and other products. However, University of Sydney researcher Chris Maher says that exercise is still the best remedy.

It’s true that certain belts, inserts and other products aren’t completely useless. However, Maher and his team scanned over 21 studies from around the world that focused on acute lower back pain. When you combine the number of people involved in the studies, it added up to over 30,000 participants.

It was found that in the year following an episode of back pain, exercise reduced the odds of new cases by 25 to 40 percent. Dr. Tim Carey of the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill provided commentary in the results (published in JAMA Internal Medicine). He believes that 25-40 percent is a high success rate when it comes to back pain.

With results like that, researchers like Dr. Carey don’t understand why exercise hasn’t become a more consistent part of a prescribed treatment plan. He told NPR, “Prescribing ineffective treatments for patients may actually distract them and give them a false sense of security away from treatments that acre actually beneficial.”2

The challenge is sometimes knowing which exercises provide the best treatments for individual patients. The key might be additional research that features a larger number of participants. If specific exercises can be identified, the effects may not only provide relief, but also save money. It is estimated that around $80 billion has been spent on problems related to the spine.

Education can also be a consistent back pain reliever. Those who suffer from it need to take action on habits that contribute to the problem. This includes smoking, dieting and posture.


  1. Steffens D. Prevention of low back pain: a systematic review and meta-analysis. JAMA Internal Medicine. January 11, 2016.
  2. Bichell RE. Forget the gizmos: exercise works best for lower-back pain. NPR.