Background: Exercise benefits patients with chronic nonspecific low back pain; however, the most effective type of exercise remains unknown.
Objective: This study compared outcomes after motor control exercises, sling exercises, and general exercises for low back pain.
Design: This was a randomized controlled trial with a 1-year follow-up.
Setting: The study was conducted in a primary care setting in Norway.
Patients: The participants were patients with chronic nonspecific low back pain (n=109).
Interventions: The interventions in this study were low-load motor control exercises, high-load sling exercises, or general exercises, all delivered by experienced physical therapists, once a week for 8 weeks.
Measurements: The primary outcome measure was pain reported on the Numeric Pain Rating Scale after treatment and at a 1-year follow-up. Secondary outcome measures were self-reported activity limitation (assessed with the Oswestry Disability Index), clinically examined function (assessed with the Fingertip-to-Floor Test), and fear-avoidance beliefs after intervention.
Results: The postintervention assessment showed no significant differences among groups with respect to pain (overall group difference) or any of the outcome measures. Mean (95% confidence interval) group differences for pain reduction after treatment and after 1 year were 0.3 (-0.7 to 1.3) and 0.4 (-0.7 to 1.4) for motor control exercises versus sling exercises, 0.7 (-0.6 to 2.0) and 0.3 (-0.8 to 1.4) for sling exercises versus general exercises, and 1.0 (-0.1 to 2.0) and 0.7 (-0.3 to 1.7) for motor control exercises versus general exercises.
Limitations: The nature of the interventions made blinding impossible.
Conclusions: This study gave no evidence that 8 treatments with individually instructed motor control exercises or sling exercises were superior to general exercises for chronic low back pain.
Trial registration: ClinicalTrials.gov NCT00201513.