February 10, 2016

Exercise and Education: Essentials for Resolving Lower Back Pain

Cost Containment
, Patient Management

From warehouse workers to cubicle copywriters, lower back pain is a constant on workers’ comp injury lists across all industries – and likely it has already had, or will have, an effect on you or your workforce.

This is not a new phenomenon. In a 1999 study, researchers estimated 149 million work days were lost every year because of low back pain1 and the prevalence of the issue has only gotten worse. According to a 2012 study, over 2 million episodes of low back pain occurred among a population at risk of over 1.48 billion people2 and now, statistics show that low back pain affects at least 80% of Americans at some point in their lives3.

A recent study published in The Journal of the American Medical Association included a meta-analysis of what treatment options are supported for preventing low back pain and unnecessary absence (Steffens, et. al.). The objective of the study was to investigate the effectiveness of various interventions for prevention of lower back pain.

The study investigated six different lower back pain prevention strategies including exercise, education, a combination of exercise and education, back belts, shoe insoles, and other prevention strategies.  The majority of the trial participants was of the working-age populations.

The result of the study found that a combination of exercise and education is likely to reduce the risk of lower back pain. Exercise alone was found to reduce the risk of an episode of lower back pain and absence from work due to lower back pain for short-term periods of time.

Evidence from the study also found that education, back belts, shoe insoles, and ergonomics – each on their own – did not prevent lower back pain.

When it comes to the resolution of pain, especially a notoriously recurring pain such as lower back pain, the tag-team effort of education and exercise is necessary for successful medical management in a workers’ compensation program.

The idea of combining patient education with rigorous physical therapy is not new to comprehensive medical management programs. CorVel has taken this approach of combining case management and physical therapy to satisfy both the education and exercise pieces needed to successfully resolve and prevent most musculoskeletal injuries – including lower back pain.  CorVel offers an effective methodology to physical therapy focused on attainable goals for return to work and maximum medical improvement.

To learn more about CorVel’s physical therapy program and how they integrate both exercise and education into injured workers’ treatment plans, visit their website.



  • Guo HR, Tanaka S, Halperin WE, Cameron LL. “Back pain prevalence in US industry and estimates of lost workdays.” Am J Public Health, 1999, 89(7):1029-1035.
  • Spine J., et. al. “Low back pain in the United States: incidence and risk factors for presentation in the emergency setting.” 2012 Jan;12(1):63-70. doi: 10.1016/j.spinee.2011.09.002. Epub 2011 Oct 5.
  • Freburger JK, et. al. “The rising prevalence of chronic low back pain.” Arch Intern Med. 2009 Feb 9;169(3):251-8. 
  • Hancock M, Teixeira-Salmela L, Steffens D, et al. "Prevention of Low Back Pain A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis." JAMA Intern Med. 2016.