Motor control exercises, sling exercises, and general exercises for patients with chronic low back pain: a randomized controlled trial with 1-year follow-up

Phys Ther. 2010 Oct;90(10):1426-40. doi: 10.2522/ptj.20090421. Epub 2010 Jul 29.


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: NCT00201513.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Chronic Disease
  • Disability Evaluation
  • Exercise Therapy / methods*
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Linear Models
  • Low Back Pain / rehabilitation*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Norway
  • Pain Measurement
  • Physical Therapy Modalities
  • Treatment Outcome

Associated data