Study design: A prospective, randomized, controlled trial with a stratification block design in which a Mensendieck exercise program was compared with the experience of a control group.
Objective: To evaluate the effect of a Mensendieck program on the incidence of recurrent episodes of low back pain in patients with a history of the condition who currently are working.
Summary of background data: One episode of low back pain increases the risk of further episodes of the condition. The Mensendieck approach combines education and exercise. This approach has been used for many years in Scandinavia and the Netherlands. However, the effects on low back pain have not been evaluated previously in a randomized, controlled trial.
Methods: A total of 77 men and women, mean age 39.6 years (range, 21.2-49.8 years), who had finished treatment for a low back pain episode, were stratified according to incidence of low back pain episodes and symptoms of sciatica over the preceding 3 years. The patients were assigned at random to either the Mensendieck program or a control group. The Mensendieck group received 20 group sessions of exercises and ergonomic education in 13 weeks. At 5- and 12-month follow-up examinations, the patients were assessed for recurrence of low back pain, days of sick leave, low back pain, and functional scores.
Results: After 12 months, there was a significant reduction in recurrent low back pain episodes in the Mensendieck group compared with the control group (P < 0.05). There was a trend toward fewer days of sick leave because of low back pain in the Mensendieck group, but no significant differences between the groups. There was reduction in pain and improvement in function in both groups, with no significant differences between the groups.
Conclusions: A secondary prophylaxis Mensendieck exercise program of 20 group sessions significantly reduced the incidence of low back pain recurrences in a population with history of the condition. However, there were no differences between the groups with regard to days of sick leave, low back pain, and function.