Background: The prescription of exercise as a conservative treatment for lumbar pain is frequent and seems effective for the chronic cases of nonspecific low back pain. However, there is no evidence favoring one type of exercise over another. Often, exercise programs are prescribed without adequate evaluation of the individual characteristics like posture, muscular force, and extensibility. Patients with totally different causes of low back pain will often be given the same type of exercises.
Objective: Our objective was to compare the effectiveness of 2 home exercise programs in decreasing disability and pain related to subacute and chronic nonspecific low back pain. To do so we compared a specific (individualized) exercise program with a program of commonly prescribed exercises for low back pain.
Method: In a control group study, 20 patients with chronic or subacute nonspecific low back pain participated after giving their informed consent. All subjects were evaluated (physical evaluation of lumbar and pelvic muscles  force and  extensibility,  trunk range of motion) and then divided in 2 groups: 10 patients received specific exercises (experimental group) based on their evaluation, and 10 patients received a commonly prescribed exercise program for low back pain (control group). Six weeks later a second physical evaluation was conducted. Pain (visual analog pain scale) and disability (modified Oswestry) questionnaires were also completed by each subject at both evaluations.
Design: This was a randomized experimental study.
Results: Both groups had similar age, weight, and sex characteristics. The experimental group showed significant improvements for some components targeted by the program. The control group significantly had improvement of some physical characteristics not related to their initial deficits. Even if both groups showed some improvements in muscular force and extensibility, only the members of the group who received specific exercises significantly reduced their level of pain and disability. Both groups showed a similar rate of participation in the program.
Conclusion: The results of this study suggest that applying a specific physical evaluation and exercise prescription is an appropriate treatment for people having subacute or chronic nonspecific pain. Thus clinicians should prescribe exercise programs based on individual muscular deficits rather than most commonly prescribed exercise programs.