Background and purpose: The purpose of this multicenter randomized clinical trial was to examine the effectiveness of an extension-oriented treatment approach (EOTA) in a subgroup of subjects with low back pain (LBP) who were hypothesized to benefit from the treatment compared with similar subjects who received a lumbar spine strengthening exercise program.
Methods: Subjects with LBP and symptoms distal to the buttocks that centralized with extension movements were included. Forty-eight subjects were randomly assigned to groups that received an EOTA (n=26) or a strengthening exercise program (n=22). Subjects attended 8 physical therapy sessions and completed a home exercise program. Follow-up data were obtained at 1 week, 4 weeks, and 6 months after randomization. Primary outcome measures were disability (modified Oswestry Low Back Pain Disability Questionnaire) and pain (Numeric Pain Rating Scale).
Results: Subjects in the EOTA group experienced greater improvements in disability compared with subjects who received trunk strengthening exercises at 1 week (mean difference between groups from baseline=8.9, 95% confidence interval [CI]=2.0, 15.9), 4 weeks, (mean difference=14.4, 95% CI=4.8, 23.9), and 6 months (mean difference=14.6, 95% CI=4.6, 24.6). The EOTA group demonstrated greater change in pain at the 1-week follow-up only.
Discussion and conclusion: An EOTA was more effective than trunk strengthening exercise in a subgroup of subjects hypothesized to benefit from this treatment approach. Additional research is needed to explore whether an EOTA may benefit other subgroups of patients.