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Aquatic Exercise May Be Helpful for Low Back Pain

Last Updated: June 26, 2009.

Exercising in water may be particularly beneficial for people with chronic low back pain, according to research published in the June 15 issue of Spine.

FRIDAY, June 26 (HealthDay News) -- Exercising in water may be particularly beneficial for people with chronic low back pain, according to research published in the June 15 issue of Spine.

Umit Dundar, M.D., of the Kocatepe University in Afyonkarahisar, Turkey, and colleagues analyzed data from 65 adults, ages 20 to 50 years, with low back pain of more than three months' duration. They were randomized to participate in 20 sessions of an aquatic exercise program over four weeks or a self-directed land-based program for four weeks.

The researchers report that both groups showed improvements on a variety of outcomes, including pain measured on a visual analog scale; disability (measured on the modified Oswestry low back disability questionnaire); and quality of life (measured with the Short Form-36 Health Survey). However, at weeks four and 12, the aquatic group showed better improvement on the Oswestry questionnaire and the physical function and role limitations due to physical functioning sections of the Short Form-36.

"Movement in water is often less painful than similar movement on land. Sensory input from water pressure and temperature may decrease feelings of pain. A desired exercise intensity can be achieved by adjusting the velocity of movement in the water. Water-based physical activity enhances balance and coordination, while stimulating, visual, vestibular, and perceptual systems. Buoyancy reduces stress on joints and muscles and enables greater range of movement via supporting the weight of the body," the authors write.

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