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bibliography  * The PainScience Bibliography contains plain language summaries of thousands of scientific papers and others sources, like a specialized blog. This page is for a single item from the bibliography, O'Sullivan 1997.

Evaluation of specific stabilizing exercise in the treatment of chronic low back pain with radiologic diagnosis of spondylolysis or spondylolisthesis

added Dec 14, 06 • updated Jan 6, 14
O'Sullivan PB, Phyty GD, Twomey LT, Allison GT. Evaluation of specific stabilizing exercise in the treatment of chronic low back pain with radiologic diagnosis of spondylolysis or spondylolisthesis. Spine. 1997 Dec;22(24):2959–2967. PubMed #9431633.
Tags: back pain, exercise, pain problems, spine, self-treatment, treatment

PainSci summary of O'Sullivan 1997 ★★★☆☆?3-star ratings are for average studies, with no more (or less) than the usual common problems. Ratings are a highly subjective opinion, and subject to revision at any time. If you think this paper has been incorrectly rated, please let me know.

Forty-four patients chronic low back pain where the anatomic stability of the spine was compromised were divided into two groups: one group did core stability training for ten weeks, and the other did not. While the group that did nothing remained unchanged, the group that exercised “showed a statistically significant reduction in pain intensity and functional disability levels, which was maintained at a 30-month follow-up.” The authors did not specify in their abstract how much of a statistically significant reduction, so it was probably small. (When researchers find a good-sized effect, they invariably emphasize it. If they don’t, you can pretty much guarantee it was nothing to write home about.)

It’s important to note that these patients had structurally unsound spines, however, which is not the case in many other cases of chronic low back pain. Indeed, it is quite a different clinical situation than most chronic low back pain.

~ Paul Ingraham

original abstract

STUDY DESIGN: A randomized, controlled trial, test--retest design, with a 3-, 6-, and 30-month postal questionnaire follow-up.

OBJECTIVE: To determine the efficacy of a specific exercise intervention in the treatment of patients with chronic low back pain and a radiologic diagnosis of spondylolysis or spondylolisthesis.

SUMMARY OF BACKGROUND DATA: A recent focus in the physiotherapy management of patients with back pain has been the specific training of muscles surrounding the spine (deep abdominal muscles and lumbar multifidus), considered to provide dynamic stability and fine control to the lumbar spine. In no study have researchers evaluated the efficacy of this intervention in a population with chronic low back pain where the anatomic stability of the spine was compromised.

METHODS: Forty-four patients with this condition were assigned randomly to two treatment groups. The first group underwent a 10-week specific exercise treatment program involving the specific training of the deep abdominal muscles, with co-activation of the lumbar multifidus proximal to the pars defects. The activation of these muscles was incorporated into previously aggravating static postures and functional tasks. The control group underwent treatment as directed by their treating practitioner.

RESULTS: After intervention, the specific exercise group showed a statistically significant reduction in pain intensity and functional disability levels, which was maintained at a 30-month follow-up. The control group showed no significant change in these parameters after intervention or at follow-up.

SUMMARY: A “specific exercise” treatment approach appears more effective than other commonly prescribed conservative treatment programs in patients with chronically symptomatic spondylolysis or spondylolisthesis.

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