Relationship between physical activity and disability in low back pain: A systematic review and meta-analysis

Chung-Wei Christine Lin*, James H. McAuley, Luciana Macedo, Dominique C. Barnett, Rob J. Smeets, Jeanine A. Verbunt

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

135 Citations (Web of Science)


It is often assumed that patients with pain-related disability due to low back pain (LBP) will have reduced physical activity levels, but recent studies have provided results that challenge this assumption. The aim of our systematic review was to examine the relationship between physical activity and disability in LBP. The literature search included 6 electronic databases and the reference list of relevant systematic reviews and studies to May 2010. To be included, studies had to measure both disability (eg, with the Roland Morris Disability Questionnaire) and physical activity (eg, by accelerometry) in patients with non-specific LBP. Two independent reviewers screened search results and extracted data, and authors were contacted for additional data. Correlation coefficients were pooled using the random-effects model. The search identified 3213 records and 18 studies were eligible for inclusion. The pooled results showed a weak relationship between physical activity and disability in acute or subacute (3 months) LBP (r = -0.33, 95% confidence interval = -0.51 to -0.15). That is, persons with acute or subacute LBP appear to vary in the levels of physical activity independent of their pain-related disability. Persons with chronic LBP with high levels of disability are also likely to have low levels of physical activity.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)607-613
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2011


  • Physical activity
  • Disability
  • Low back pain
  • Systematic review

Cite this