Study design: Randomized controlled trial.
Background: Low back pain is a common disorder. Patients with low back pain frequently have aberrant and pain-provocative movement patterns that often are addressed with motor control exercises.
Objective: To compare the effects of low-load motor control (LMC) exercise and those of a high-load lifting (HLL) exercise.
Methods: Seventy participants with recurrent low back pain, who were diagnosed with nociceptive mechanical pain as their dominating pain pattern, were randomized to either LMC or HLL exercise treatments. Participants were offered 12 treatment sessions over an 8-week period. All participants were also provided with education regarding pain mechanisms.
Methods: Participants were assessed prior to and following treatment. The primary outcome measures were activity (the Patient-Specific Functional Scale) and average pain intensity over the last 7 days (visual analog scale). The secondary outcome measure was a physical performance test battery that included 1 strength, 3 endurance, and 7 movement control tests for the lumbopelvic region.
Results: Both interventions resulted in significant within-group improvements in pain intensity, strength, and endurance. The LMC group showed significantly greater improvement on the Patient-Specific Functional Scale (4.2 points) compared with the HLL group (2.5 points) (P<.001). There were no significant between-group differences in pain intensity (P=.505), strength, and 1 of the 3 endurance tests. However, the LMC group showed an increase (from 2.9 to 5.9) on the movement control test subscale, whereas the HLL group showed no change (from 3.9 to 3.1) (P<.001).
Conclusion: An LMC intervention may result in superior outcomes in activity, movement control, and muscle endurance compared to an HLL intervention, but not in pain intensity, strength, or endurance. Registered at ClinicalTrials.gov (NCT01061632).
Level of evidence: Therapy, level 2b-.
Keywords: deadlift; functional rehabilitation; motor learning; stabilization exercises; subgrouping.