• Low back pain is the health condition that carries the greatest burden internationally and in Australia.
  • Low back pain is the third most common health complaint seen by Australian general practitioners.
  • While many people with low back pain recover from an acute episode, recurrences are very common.

 “Approximately 70% of people who recover from an episode of low back pain will have a recurrence within 12 months and 30% will seek care for this recurrence,” said Professor Mark Hancock from Macquarie University. The available evidence suggests that exercise program combined with education, can reduce the risk of future recurrences by nearly 50%. However, it is unclear what type of exercise is best and if simple exercises like walking are effective.

The general health benefits of walking are extensive. Research has shown walking can lower the risk of heart disease, stroke, cancer and diabetes. An Australian Burden of Disease study in 2017 reported if all Australians did an extra 30 minutes of brisk walking for 5 days each week, it could reduce the burden of chronic diseases by 26%. Therefore, researchers at Macquarie University, led by Professor Mark Hancock, are exploring if walking and back pain education can prevent future episodes of low back pain. They are seeking volunteers who have experienced low back pain in the last 6 months and are not currently walking for exercise 3 or more times per week.

The WalkBack Trial is a large-scale research study funded by the National Health and Medical Research Council. Over 550 people have enrolled since it started in 2019. Since the onset of COVID, the program can be delivered by a telehealth consultation Australia-wide or by visits to certain physiotherapy clinics in Sydney, Central Coast and Queensland. The results will improve the knowledge of, and management of low back pain recurrences. “We hope to find a cheap, easily accessible way for people to prevent recurrences of back pain,” said Professor Mark Hancock.

If you would like to find out more, please visit: Walk Off Back Pain Trial (www.walkbacktrial.com) or email walkback@mq.edu.au    

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