Outcome of inpatient and outpatient treatment of low back pain was studied in 459 patients (aged 35-54 years, 63% men); 156 inpatients, 150 outpatients and 153 controls. Changes in low back pain and in disability caused by it, and adherence and accomplishment of back exercises were used as short-term outcome criteria. The overall results showed a significant decrease in pain and disability and better compliance in the two treated groups when compared to the controls. There was also a significant difference in treatment gains between the inpatients and outpatients; i.e. the decrease in pain was greater and the frequency of back exercises higher in the inpatients. The inpatients also estimated their treatment benefits more positively than the outpatients.