Physiotherapy combined with routine or stabilization exercises is effective for reducing pain and improving muscle dimensions in patients with nonspecific chronic low back pain, according to a randomized clinical trial published in the Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics.1

Researchers randomly assigned participants to perform stabilization exercises in addition to receiving electrotherapy (n=20; experimental group) or to follow a routine exercise program in addition to receiving electrotherapy (n=21; control group).

Routine physiotherapy and electrotherapy and warmup exercises were the main interventions in both study arms. Pain intensity and transverse abdominis dimensions were significantly improved in both treatment groups (P <.05 in all instances). The lumbar multifidus cross-sectional areas were significantly improved in the control group on the left side only, compared with all sides in the experimental group.

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Researchers in this study suggest larger studies in the patient population receiving routine exercise therapy for nonspecific low back pain is needed to provide more conclusive results. Large-scale studies will also help provide more information to clinicians, which will subsequently help educate patients in performing more appropriate muscle contractions.

In addition, the investigators believe that if further research supports their findings, the combination of stabilization and routine exercises “can be prescribed for the treatment of patients with nonspecific chronic LBP [low back pain] in physiotherapy clinics.”

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Study Limitations

  • Treatment sessions were short (1 hour, 3 times per week)
  • No follow-up measurements were conducted, limiting long-term treatment assessment
  • The physiotherapist evaluator was not blinded

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  1. Nabavi N, Mohseni Bandpei MA, Mosallanezhad Z, Rahgozar M, Jaberzadeh S. The effect of 2 different exercise programs on pain intensity and muscle dimensions in patients with chronic low back pain: a randomized controlled trial [published online July 21, 2017]. J Manipulative Physiol Ther. doi:10.1016/j.jmpt.2017.03.011