Work It Out for Low Back Pain

Lower back pain may improve with motor control exercise

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Jennifer Gershman, PharmD, CPh

(RxWiki News) Lower back pain is one of the most common health conditions worldwide. But a little exercise may be able to help.

A form of physical therapy called motor control exercise (MCE) may be an effective way to reduce the pain and disability caused by lower back pain, a new study found.

"Targeting the strength and coordination of muscles that support the spine through motor control exercise offers an alternative approach to treating lower back pain," said lead study author Bruno Saragiotto, a doctoral student in physiotherapy at the University of Sydney, in a press release. "We can be confident that they are as effective as other types of exercise, so the choice of exercise should take into account factors such as patient or therapist preferences, cost and availability."

MCE is a popular exercise program that aims to improve the coordination of the muscles that control and support the spine. This program begins with patients using their muscles normally by completing simple tasks, usually with guidance from a physical therapist. These exercises gradually become more demanding and include activities that patients typically do during work or leisure activities.

For this study, Saragiotto and team used data from 29 trials involving 2,431 men and women ages 22 to 55. These trials looked at MCE compared to other types of exercise or no exercise for the treatment of lower back pain. Follow-ups were conducted periodically between three and 12 months.

When compared to no exercise, MCE was linked to improvements in pain and disability in these patients. When compared to other types of exercise, similar improvements in lower back pain were seen in both groups.

"At present, we don't really know how motor control exercise compares with other forms of exercise in the long term," Saragiotto said. "It's important we see more research in this field so that patients can make more informed choices about persisting with treatment."

In spite of these findings, if you have lower back pain, it's important to talk to your doctor before starting any new exercise program.

This study was published Jan. 6 in the journal Cochrane Library. No funding sources or conflicts of interest were disclosed.

Review Date: 
January 7, 2016
Last Updated:
January 10, 2016