Effects of muscular stretching and segmental stabilization on functional disability and pain in patients with chronic low back pain: a randomized, controlled trial

J Manipulative Physiol Ther. 2012 May;35(4):279-85. doi: 10.1016/j.jmpt.2012.04.012.


Objective: The purpose of this study was to compare the effects of 2 exercise programs, segmental stabilization exercises (SSEs) and stretching of trunk and hamstrings muscles, on functional disability, pain, and activation of the transversus abdominis muscle (TrA), in individuals with chronic low back pain.

Methods: A total of 30 participants were enrolled in this study and randomly assigned to 1 of 2 groups as a function of intervention. In the segmental stabilization group (SS), exercises focused on the TrA and lumbar multifidus muscles, whereas in the stretching group (ST), exercises focused on stretching the erector spinae, hamstrings, and triceps surae. Severity of pain (visual analog scale and McGill pain questionnaire) and functional disability (Oswestry disability questionnaire) and TrA muscle activation capacity (Pressure Biofeedback Unit, or PBU) were compared as a function of intervention. Interventions lasted 6 weeks, and sessions happened twice a week (30 minutes each). Analysis of variance was used for intergroup and intragroup comparisons.

Results: As compared with baseline, both treatments were effective in relieving pain and improving disability (P < .001). Those in the SS group had significantly higher gains for all variables. The stretching group did not effectively activate the TrA (P = .94).

Conclusion: Both techniques improved pain and reduced disability. In this study, SS was superior to muscular stretching for the measured variables associated with chronic low back pain.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Chronic Pain / therapy*
  • Disability Evaluation
  • Exercise Therapy / methods*
  • Humans
  • Low Back Pain / therapy*
  • Muscle Stretching Exercises
  • Single-Blind Method