Study design: A randomized, controlled, single-center trial with a stratified group design.
Objective: To investigate the secondary prophylactic effect of the Active Back School program on minimizing recurrences of low back pain episodes.
Summary of background data: The results of back school interventions are controversial. Previous work often used short intervention periods and low doses of practical training. However, studies with the highest methodologic scores have shown the best results, especially when conducted in occupational settings and coupled with a comprehensive rehabilitation program.
Methods: By block randomization, 19 men and 24 women were allocated to Active Back School, with 18 men and 20 women as control subjects. The Slumps test and number of low back pain episodes during the previous 36 months were used as stratification factors. There were no significant differences between the groups with regard to demographic factors and initially observed variables. Active Back School consisted of 20 lessons over a 13-week period. Each lesson was divided into a 20-minute theoretical part and a 40-minute exercise part. All participants were examined on enrollment, then 5 and 12 months after initiation of the program. Outcome measures were recurrence of low back pain episodes and number of days of sick leave.
Results: The recurrence of new low back pain episodes was significantly lower (P < 0.05) and the time from inclusion to the first new episode significantly longer (P < 0.01) in the Active Back School group than in the control group. In the Active Back School group, seven participants took sick leave because of low back pain episodes during the first 12 months of follow-up compared with 11 among the control subjects. The number of sick leave days was significantly lower (P < 0.05) in the Active Back School group than in the control group.
Conclusion: Active Back School reduced the recurrence and severity of new low back pain episodes according to results of follow-up examinations performed 5 and 12 months after enrollment.