Question: Does an eight-week exercise program reduce the intensity and prevalence of low back pain in 12-13 year old children? Does it decrease the childhood physical risk factors for low back pain and promote a sense of well-being?
Design: Randomised trial with concealed allocation and assessor blinding.
Participants: Seventy-two 12-13 year old children, who had complained of low back pain in the past three months.
Intervention: The experimental group completed eight exercise classes of 40-45 minutes duration over eight weeks conducted by a physiotherapist, whilst the control group received no intervention.
Outcome measures: The primary outcome was pain intensity measured on a 10-cm visual analogue scale. Secondary outcomes included 3-month prevalence of pain, childhood physical risk factors for low back pain, and sense of well-being. Measures were taken at baseline (Month 0), post-intervention (Month 3), and three months later (Month 6).
Results: Pain intensity over the past month had decreased by 2.2 cm (95% CI 1.0 to 3.5) more for the experimental group than the control group at Month 3 and was still 2.0 cm (95% CI 0.5 to 3.5) less than the control group at Month 6. The absolute risk reduction for 3-month prevalence in low back pain in the experimental group was 24% (95% CI 4 to 41) compared with the control group at Month 3, and 40% (95% CI 18 to 57) at Month 6. There were also statistically-significant between-group differences in neural mobility.
Conclusion: Exercise is effective in reducing the intensity and prevalence of low back pain in children.
Trial registration: Clinical trials NCT00786864.