We have known for many years the many benefits to general health of a solid cardiovascular (CV) fitness base (increased vitality, lowered blood cholesterols, reduced body fat, reduced risk of heart disease and stroke) however this component of fitness has often been neglected in back pain prevention and rehabilitation programs.

Why is it important to work on your CV fitness (i.e. heart and lung capacity) in low back pain rehabilitation and prevention?

    • Increased CV fitness will improve oxygen delivery to injured and recovering muscles thus improving recovery rates and performance.
    • Improved performance in real life tasks – many back pain patients become unable to do simple tasks such as climbing stairs, not only due to back pain, but to a loss of CV fitness. A good CV program will enable the person to continue to perform these real life tasks and not feel that their pain is reducing the quality of every aspect of their lives.
  • In many cases of low back pain the level of the pain is not closely aligned to the actual pathology – i.e. the pain is perceived to be much worse than the actual physical problem, and as a result many patients feel that all pain is making their condition worse. From experience this is usually not the case. Cardiovascular exercise will allow the patient to get on with their lives and realize that the training sessions can be performed that do not lead to great increases in the level of discomfort immediately after the session or the next day.

Increasing CV fitness will most definitely increase the persons self esteem and promote positive hormonal changes that will improve the general mood and reduce anxiety caused by pain. In fact all chronic pain management programs include comprehensive activity and fitness components as this is proven to have a huge input into the program’s success and the patients’ progress.

What is the best CV exercise for back pain patients?

As one well known spinal surgeon said:

“I do not care what they do…just get them moving”.

Whilst this may be a little simplistic the message is clear – do whatever the person can do that raises their heart rate to a suitable level and keeps it there for as long as necessary.

In our experience swimming is a great option (assuming the person can swim well for 20-30 minutes), however some low back patients can do a CV program on the stationary cycle, treadmill or even stepper; depending on their individual condition and level of pain. You may need to try small sessions on each apparatus and check for pain during and after the sessions.

Note: Please remember that all back pain is different and needs to be fully assessed by a trained professional in physiotherapy before embarking on a CV program – speak to your local We-Fix-U Physiotherapist in Bowmanville, CobourgOshawaPort Hope, and Peterborough. today for help. Call us or make an appointment online.

David Evans

We-Fix-U Physiotherapist


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