PainSci commentary on Shnayderman 2013: ?This page is one of thousands in the PainScience.com bibliography. It is not a general article: it is focused on a single scientific paper, and it may provide only just enough context for the summary to make sense. Links to other papers and more general information are provided wherever possible.
Some evidence suggests that the type of exercise you do for back pain is less important than just getting enough of any kind of exercise (Ferreira 2010). So, what works better for chronic low back pain: increasing back strength? Or just a good brisk daily walk?
Researchers compared these approaches in 52 typical patients (all without much exercise in their lives to begin with). Half of them walked on treadmill twice a week for six weeks, while the other half did “active movements and strengthening exercises for the trunk and upper and lower limbs” — the kind of supposedly good-for-your-back strength training the average person fully expects to be prescribed.
The results of each approach were indistinguishable: they all “improved with similar achievements in all outcome measures.”
The inevitable objection to this study is that twice per week for six weeks is just not enough for a difference to emerge, and the researchers know this, but because their experiment “was conducted in the physical therapy department of a public health organization, it has to be feasible and applicable in the future for the therapist and patients” — and that’s a reasonable limitation. More demanding exercise prescriptions are usually a prescription for failure for most sedentary people (the efficacy versus effectiveness problem, see Beedie 2016).
It is possible that a more intense and long term effort — say, 4 days/week for 6 months — would be a completely different story, and we see signs of that from other research (Ylinen 2007 found that persistence paid doing strength training for neck pain). It’s also possible it would not be a different story (according to Smith et al there is “strong evidence stabilisation exercises are not more effective than any other form of active exercise in the long term”).
~ Paul Ingraham
- “Death by effectiveness: exercise as medicine caught in the efficacy trap!,” Chris Beedie, Steven Mann, Alfonso Jimenez, Lynne Kennedy, Andrew M Lane, Sarah Domone, Stephen Wilson, and Greg Whyte, British Journal of Sports Medicine, 2016.
- “Neck muscle training in the treatment of chronic neck pain: a three-year follow-up study,” J Ylinen, A Häkkinen, M Nykänen, H Kautiainen, and E-P Takala, Europa Medicophysica, 2007.
- “Backward Walking: A Possible Active Exercise for Low Back Pain Reduction and Enhanced Function in Athletes,” Janet, Dufek, Anthony, House, Brent, Mangus, Geoffrey, Melcher, and John Mercer, Journal of Exercise Physiologyonline, 2011.
- “An update of stabilisation exercises for low back pain: a systematic review with meta-analysis,” Benjamin E Smith, Chris Littlewood, and Stephen May, BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders, 2014.
- “Can We Explain Heterogeneity Among Randomized Clinical Trials of Exercise for Chronic Back Pain? A Meta-Regression Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials,” Manuela L Ferreira, Rob J E M Smeets, Steven J Kamper, Paulo H Ferreira, and Luciana A C Machado, Physical Therapy, 2010.
This page is part of the PainScience BIBLIOGRAPHY, which contains plain language summaries of thousands of scientific papers & others sources. It’s like a highly specialized blog. A few highlights:
- Photobiomodulation therapy is not better than placebo in patients with chronic nonspecific low back pain: a randomised placebo-controlled trial. Guimarães 2021 Pain.
- No effect of creatine monohydrate supplementation on inflammatory and cartilage degradation biomarkers in individuals with knee osteoarthritis. Cornish 2018 Nutr Res.
- The CANBACK trial: a randomised, controlled clinical trial of oral cannabidiol for people presenting to the emergency department with acute low back pain. Bebee 2021 Med J Aust.
- Relationships Between Sleep Quality and Pain-Related Factors for People with Chronic Low Back Pain: Tests of Reciprocal and Time of Day Effects. Gerhart 2017 Ann Behav Med.
- Modulation in the elastic properties of gastrocnemius muscle heads in individuals with plantar fasciitis and its relationship with pain. Zhou 2020 Sci Rep.