Study design: A prospective clinical randomized controlled trial.
Objectives: To determine the long-term effect of a combined exercise and motivational program on the level of disability of patients with chronic and recurrent low back pain (LBP).
Summary of background data: There is agreement on the importance of exercise during the course of chronic LBP. However, it is well known that long-term adherence with exercises is particularly low.
Methods: A total of 93 patients with LBP were randomly assigned to the control group (standard exercise program) or the motivational group (combined exercise and motivational program). Follow-up assessments were performed at 3.5 weeks, 4 months, 12 months, and 5 years. Main outcome measures were disability scores, pain intensity, and working ability. In addition to classic statistics, the sophisticated linear partial credit model was used to test the effects of treatment on disability scores.
Results: In both groups, significant improvements in the disability scores were found at all points of follow-up assessment, however, the cumulative effect of the treatment in the motivational group was more than twice as much as in the control group. This result is in accordance with the increasing divergence in pain intensity between groups between 12 months and 5 years after intervention. A significant, positive long-term effect at the 5-year reassessment in working ability was only seen in the motivational group. All statistically significant results were confirmed by intention-to-treat analyses.
Conclusions: Regarding long-term efficacy, the combined exercise and motivation program was superior to the standard exercise program. Five years after the supervised combined exercise and motivational program, patients had significant improvements in disability, pain intensity, and working ability.