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Poor Aerobic Fitness Linked with Low Back Pain

In this study researchers from the Netherlands compare aerobic fitness in people with and without chronic low back pain (CLBP). It makes sense that a less fit person is more likely to have back pain, but is it really true?

To answer this question 115 patients completed a special bicycle test of aerobic fitness. The results were compared to a large group of healthy adults without back pain (control group). The groups were similar (matched) based on age, gender, and level of activity.

The group of back pain patients had a much lower level of fitness compared to the control group. Men seemed to be affected more than women in the group. Most of the patients were moderately to severely disabled. More than half of them were not working at all because of their back pain.

The authors say it looks like back pain patients are less fit but not for the reasons predicted. The researchers thought that pain levels, fear of injury, and level of disability would reduce CLBP patients' fitness. But these factors weren't linked to the results of the bike test at all.

Now they plan to look at the activity and fitness level before back pain occurs. The next question is: are people with lower levels of aerobic fitness more likely to develop back pain? Stay tuned!


Rob J. E. M. Smeets, MD, et al. Do Patients with Chronic Low Back Pain Have a Lower Level of Aerobic Fitness Than Healthy Controls? In Spine. January 1, 2006. Vol. 31. No. 1. Pp. 90-97.

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