Maximal aerobic power in patients with chronic low back pain: a comparison with healthy subjects

Eur Spine J. 2011 Jan;20(1):87-93. doi: 10.1007/s00586-010-1561-0. Epub 2010 Aug 29.


The objective of the study was to compare the maximal aerobic capacity of patients with chronic low back pain with healthy asymptomatic controls matched for age, gender and level of physical activity at work and during sports activities. Reported data in the literature with respect to aerobic capacity in patients with chronic low back pain are not conclusive. Nevertheless, based on the assumption that chronic low back pain leads to deconditioning, physical training programs are widely used as a treatment. A total of 70 patients with chronic low back pain and 70 healthy asymptomatic subjects completed questionnaires regarding demographics and performed a graded maximal exercise test until exhaustion on a cycle ergometer. The maximal aerobic power was measured by indirect calorimetry. Heart rate, respiratory exchange ratio and blood lactate levels were also measured. The test was considered maximal when VO₂max achievement criteria were obtained. VO₂max values were compared among groups. The absolute and normalized for weight values of VO₂max measured in patients with chronic low back pain were significantly lower than that of the control group. Independent comparison between men and women showed that absolute values of VO₂max are also significantly lower in men and women with chronic low back pain. Women reached absolute and normalized for weight VO₂max values significantly lower than those of men, both in chronic low back pain and control group. In conclusion, chronic low back pain patients, especially women, seem to have a reduced aerobic capacity compared to healthy asymptomatic subjects.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Exercise Test
  • Exercise Tolerance
  • Female
  • Heart Rate / physiology
  • Humans
  • Low Back Pain / diagnosis
  • Low Back Pain / physiopathology*
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Oxygen Consumption / physiology*
  • Physical Fitness / physiology*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires