Bending Over Backwards to Prevent Back PainBack problems often start early in life. Young people with back pain are likely to have similar problems later in life. Preventing back problems is a major goal of physical therapists.
A physical therapist in Denmark studied back pain in military recruits. Two groups of soldiers were followed. One group had no intervention. The second group was given back care instruction and one exercise to do twice daily. This exercise is called passive prone extension (PPE).
Prone extension is done by lying face down on the floor. The arms are used to press the upper body off the floor but without lifting up the hips. The muscles of the low back and buttocks are kept relaxed during the movement. PPE is used in the treatment of back problems. This is the first study to see if these exercises can actually prevent back pain.
The results after almost a year were good. Only one-third of the exercise group reported any back problems. This compares to one-half of the group that did nothing. The cost to prevent one soldier from getting back pain was nine dollars. This is much less than the cost to treat back pain.
Passive prone extension may be a useful tool in preventing back pain. It may work best in a military setting where the exercises are done daily. Left on their own, soldiers reported it was difficult to do the exercises daily for a year. Adults in the general population are even more unlikely to follow a daily exercise program.
Kristian Larsen, PT, MPH, et al. Can Passive Prone Extensions of the Back Prevent Back Problems? In Spine. December 15, 2002. Vol. 27. No. 24. Pp. 2747-2752.
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