INTRODUCTION: Certain cardiovascular health benefits of stair climbing are now widely accepted, but no prior studies have as yet been found linking the quantity of stairs climbed to low back pain (LBP) morbidity. Low back pain is a common musculoskeletal impairment, and research has begun to show an association between LBP and gluteus maximus (GM) weakness. With stair climbing being the activity which most activates GM, the aim of the present research was to assess the relationship between stair ambulation and LBP prevalence. The hypothesis of this cross-sectional study was that individuals with LBP would report a significantly lower numbers of stair flights climbed compared with individuals without LBP.
METHODS: A survey tool was developed and distributed via email to a convenience sample of orthopedic physical therapists. Survey items included information regarding medical history, physical activity, workplace, and LBP factors, using a one-year prevalence period.
RESULTS: A total of 363 respondents took the survey and, after application of exclusion criteria, 248 records remained in our final sample. When analyzing all genders together, non LBP (NLBP) respondents reported a mean of 51.62 flights climbed per week; and LBP respondents reported 37.82 flights climbed per week, with P = 0.077. When males and females were analyzed separately, a statistically significant difference in mean number of flights of stairs climbed was found among female respondents (61.51 flights climbed for NLBP and 35.61 flights climbed for LBP females; P = 0.031). When analyzed based on chronicity of LBP, an even stronger association between stairs climbed and LBP prevalence was found for female respondents with acute LBP (P = 0.009).
CONCLUSIONS: More weekly stairs climbed was associated with a lower LBP prevalence among females, especially with respect to acute LBP. Randomized, longitudinal research is, however, required to confirm a relationship between stair climbing and LBP.
Amabile, Amy H.; Larson, Sharon L.; Hoglund, Lisa T.; Guarnieri, John P.; McDonald, Maureen; and Reich, Madeline R., "Greater Number of Weekly Stairs Climbed is Associated With Lower Low Back Pain Prevalence Among Female but not Male Physical Therapists" (2023). Department of Physical Therapy Faculty Papers. Paper 33.
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