Effectiveness of walking versus mind-body therapies in chronic low back pain: A systematic review and meta-analysis of recent randomized controlled trials

Medicine (Baltimore). 2020 Aug 28;99(35):e21969. doi: 10.1097/MD.0000000000021969.


Purpose: Walking and mind-body therapies (MBTs) are commonly recommended to relieve pain and improve function in patients with chronic low back pain (CLBP). The purpose of this study was to compare the effectiveness of walking and MBTs in CLBP.

Methods: We included randomized controlled trials (RCTs) comparing walking or MBTs to any other intervention or control in adults with CLBP. Studies were identified through PubMed, Cochrane Library, PsycINFO, Scopus, and ScienceDirect databases. The research was limited to studies published in English and French between January 2008 and December 2018. Two reviewers independently selected the studies, extracted data, and assessed studies quality using the Physiotherapy Evidence Database (PEDro) scale. Statistical analyses were performed under a random-effects model. We analyzed pain and activity limitation, with the calculation of standardized mean differences and 95% confidence intervals for the different treatment effects.

Results: Thirty one randomized controlled trials involving 3193 participants were analyzed. Walking was as effective as control interventions in the short-term and slightly superior in the intermediate term with respect to pain (Standardized mean differences (SMD) = -0.34; 95% CI, -0.65 to -0.03; P = .03) and activity limitation (SMD = -0.30; 95% CI, -0.50 to -0.10; P = .003). In contrast, yoga was more effective than control interventions in the short term in terms of pain (SMD = -1.47; 95% CI, -2.26 to -0.68; P = .0003) and activity limitation (SMD = -1.17; 95% CI, -1.80 to -0.55; P = .0002). Yoga was no longer superior to the control interventions for pain at the 6-month follow-up.

Conclusion: MBTs, especially yoga, seem to be more effective in the short term, and walking seems to be more effective in the intermediate term, for the relief of pain and activity limitation in patients with CLBP. A combination of walking and MBTs fits the biopsychosocial model and might be valuable therapy for CLBP throughout follow-up due to combined effects.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Meta-Analysis
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Chronic Pain / therapy*
  • Humans
  • Low Back Pain / therapy*
  • Mind-Body Therapies*
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Walking*