Wimbledon Clinics

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Motor control exercise can help reduce lower back pain

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Targeted exercises can help reduce low back pain, according to a Cochrane Review published last week.

The authors found that targeting exercises to muscles that support and control the spine offers one strategy to reduce pain and disability caused by lower back pain, although outcomes are similar to other forms of exercise.

Motor control exercise is a popular form of exercise that aims to improve coordination of these muscles. Patients are initially guided by a therapist to practise normal use of the muscles with simple tasks. Then, as the patient´s skill increases, the exercises become more complex and include the functional tasks that the person needs to perform during work and/or leisure activities.

The new study published in the Cochrane Library set out to evaluate the effectiveness of motor control exercise in patients with chronic non-specific low back pain. Researchers looked at data from 29 randomised trials involving a total of 2,431 men and women, aged between 22 and 55 years old. The trials investigated the impact of using motor control exercises as a treatment for lower back pain compared with other forms of exercise or doing nothing.

Results showed that people who used motor control exercises experienced improvements, especially in pain and disability, compared with minimal intervention. However, when compared with other types of exercise over 3-12 months, motor control exercise provided similar results for pain and disability.

“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 author, physiotherapist Bruno Saragiotto, from The George Institute, University of Sydney, Australia. “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.”

More research is needed on the longer term effects of motor control exercise, Saragiotto said.

“At present, we don´t really know how motor control exercise compares with other forms of exercise in the long term. It´s important we see more research in this field so that patients can make more informed choices about persisting with treatment.”