Purpose: To compare a group exercise programme known as the Back to Fitness programme with individual physiotherapy for patients with non-specific low back pain from a materially deprived area.
Method: This was a randomized controlled trial including 237 physiotherapy patients with back pain lasting more than six weeks. Participants were allocated to either the Back to Fitness programme or to individual physiotherapy, and followed up at three months and 12 months after randomization. The main outcome measure was the Roland Disability Questionnaire. Secondary measures were: SF12, EQ5D, Pain Self-Efficacy Scale. Health care diaries recording patients' use of health care resources were also collected over a 12-month period.
Results: There were no statistically significant differences in change scores between groups on the primary outcome measure at three months (CI - 2.24 to 0.49) and at 12 months (CI - 1.68 to 1.39). Only minor improvements in disability scores were observed in the Back to Fitness group at three months and 12 months respectively (mean change scores; - 0.89, - 0.77) and in the individual physiotherapy arm (mean change scores; - 0.02, - 0.63). Further analysis showed that patients from the most severely deprived areas were marginally worse at three month follow-up whereas those from more affluent areas tended to improve (CI 0.43 to 3.15).