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Lower Spine News

Exercise Works for Chronic Back Pain

Physical therapy is a common part of the treatment for chronic low back pain. Chronic back pain is defined as pain that lasts beyond the expected time for healing. This is usually after three months.

There are many different ways to treat back pain. Exercise is one of them. There are also many different kinds of exercise programs. Therapists would like to know which kind works the best. In an effort to answer this question, therapists in Denmark and Sweden joined together. They studied two separate kinds of exercise programs used for chronic low back patients.

The first group used a method called McKenzie exercises. This therapy uses repeated movements and positions held for a length of time. The aim of this treatment is to give rapid relief from pain and return normal motion. The second method, strength training, has several parts. These include a warm up period on a bike, repeated exercises for the low back and pelvic muscles, intense back flexion and extension exercises, and stretching.

The results of each treatment were measured at two months and eight months. The McKenzie group had more function and less disability at the two-month marker. There were no differences in pain at any time between the two groups. At the end of the eight months, there were no differences at all in the final result between the two groups.

All back studies agree that exercise therapy is a good way to treat low back pain. The exact kind of exercise that is best remains unknown. The first study comparing strengthening exercises versus McKenzie exercises has been done. Active exercises are equally effective in patients with chronic low back pain.

More study is needed in this area to match specific back problems with each type of exercise. This will help therapists prescribe the right exercise for each problem.


Tom Petersen, PT, BSc, et al. The Effect of McKenzie Therapy as Compared With That of Intensive Strengthening Training for the Treatment of Patients With Subacute or Chronic Low Back Pain. In Spine. August 15, 2002. Vol. 27. No. 16. Pp. 1702-1709.

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*Disclaimer:* The information contained herein is compiled from a variety of sources. It may not be complete or timely. It does not cover all diseases, physical conditions, ailments or treatments. The information should NOT be used in place of visit with your healthcare provider, nor should you disregard the advice of your health care provider because of any information you read in this topic.
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