Exercise for Low Back Pain. Ann Intern Med. 2005;142:I-71. doi: 10.7326/0003-4819-142-9-200505030-00005
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Published: Ann Intern Med. 2005;142(9):I-71.
Low back pain is a common problem that causes discomfort and disability. It may be acute (last less than 6 weeks), subacute (last 6 to 12 weeks), or chronic (last more than 12 weeks). Treatment includes decreasing pain and helping patients resume their normal activities through exercise therapy, patient education, and pain-relieving drugs (such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs). Past reviews of studies suggested that exercise therapy might help chronic low back pain but not acute low back pain. Because several recent trials assess exercise therapy, an updated review of the evidence would be helpful.
To see whether exercise therapy reduces pain and improves physical function in adults with different durations of low back pain.
6390 adults with low back pain who participated in 61 trials of exercise therapy.
The researchers searched the medical literature up to October 2004 to find randomized, controlled trials that compared exercise therapy with placebo, no treatment, conservative management, or another exercise group. They subdivided trials into 3 groups according to whether participants had acute, subacute, or chronic low back pain. They then combined data from the trials to see whether exercise reduced pain, improved physical function, and reduced work absenteeism in the 3 groups.
Exercise therapy slightly decreased pain and improved physical function in adults with chronic low back pain. In adults with acute low back pain, exercise therapy had effects on pain similar to those of no treatment. In adults with subacute back pain, trials conducted in occupational settings suggested that exercise programs that gradually increased activity (graded-activity programs) decreased absenteeism from work.
The authors found it difficult to compare studies. Studies defined low back pain differently and also used different ways to measure pain intensity and function. Some studies were small and of low quality.
Exercise therapy probably improves pain and function outcomes better than no treatment in adults with chronic, but not acute, low back pain.
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Rheumatology, Back Pain.
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