Spinal stabilization exercises have become a popular choice for treating nonspecific low back pain (LBP). But is there any value added from these exercises over the usual Physical Therapy program?
Physical Therapists (PTs) from England examined this question. They divided patients with recurrent LBP into two treatment groups. The first group did general active exercises. They also received manual therapy from a PT. The second group had the same program plus the added spinal stabilization exercises.
Stabilization exercises are low load, high repetition training exercises for the back and abdominal muscles. The goal is to restore normal contraction, timing, and balance of these two groups of muscles.
Both groups exercised 30 minutes for a maximum of 12 sessions over 12 weeks. Everyone improved in terms of pain level, activity level, or function. Quality of life also improved.
Essentially, there were no differences in results between the two groups. The general exercise group had fewer treatment sessions over a shorter period of time with the same results.
This study investigated the usefulness of stabilization exercises as a standard method of treating nonspecific LBP. It does not appear that endurance training for the deep abdominal muscles has any added benefit over a program of general back exercises.
More study is needed to identify specific back conditions for which spinal stabilization exercises are more effective.
Mindy C. Cairns, PhD, MMACP, MCSP, MSc (Manip Ther) et al. Randomized Controlled Trial of Specific Spinal Stabilization Exercises and Conventional Physical Therapy for Recurrent Low Back Pain. In Spine. September 1, 2006. Vol. 31. No. 19. Pp. E670-E681.