Effects of Complex Rehabilitation Program on Reducing Pain and Disability in Patients with Lumbar Disc Protrusion-Is Early Intervention the Best Recommendation?

J Pers Med. 2022 May 2;12(5):741. doi: 10.3390/jpm12050741.


(1) Background: Due to its frequency and possible complications, low back pain (LBP) has a high social impact, it is a common problem of the active population and the second reason for visiting a physician. In patients with lumbar disc protrusion (LDP), one of the most common causes of LBP, the nucleus pulposus bulges against the disc and then protrudes into the spinal cord, but the annulus fibrosus remains intact; (2) Objectives: The primary objective of this study was to determine the efficacy of a rehabilitation treatment (RT) comprising electrotherapy (ET), hydrotherapy (HT) and individualized physical therapy (PT) versus ET alone in patients with LDP. The second objective was to investigate whether there is a correlation between early RT and the symptomatology of patients with LDP; (3) Methods: The research was conducted between July 2021 and January 2022 at the Ceres Hotel Treatment Centre from Baile 1 Mai, Romania, and all the study subjects signed an informed consent form. For this study, the block randomization method was used to randomize subjects into groups that resulted in equal sample size, in order to maintain a reasonably good balance among groups. Therefore, the two groups had the same number of subjects (30 subjects) and the randomization was made taking into account the patient's motivation or the subject's willingness to receive not only electrotherapy treatment, but also the physical exercises and hydrotherapy. The eligibility criteria were: low back pain for more than three months, an MRI confirmed diagnosis of LDP (without dural compression), and ability to perform a PT program. The control group received only a classical ET program. In addition, the patients in the experimental group received a complex individualized PT program associated with HT and ET. To achieve these objectives, the study subjects were monitored for spinal mobility (lateral lumbar flexion-LLF, index fingers-ground-IFG, lumbar Schober tests for flexion-LS, Inverted Schober test for extension-ILS), trunk flexor and extensor muscle strength (LF strength, LE strength), level of pain (Short Form McGill Pain Questionnaire-SF-MPQ, Visual Analogue Scale-VAS), and the degree of limitation in activities of daily living (Oswestry Disability Index-ODI); (4) Results: Comparing the evolution of the subjects, using the One-Way ANOVA between groups, we observed a significant improvement in all variables [SF-MPQ (95% CI, 7.996/11.671), VAS (95% CI, 1.965/3.169), mobility FTF (95% CI, -7.687/-3.940), LS (95% CI, 2.272/2.963), LE strength (95% CI, -5.676/-3.324), LF strength (95% CI, -5.970/-3.630), disability (95% CI, 8.026/10.441) after six months of treatment for the experimental group subjects. A clear correlation was found, using the Bravis-Pearson test, between the earliest possible initiation of RT and improvement of patients' symptoms; (5) Conclusion: The current study proves the importance of combining ET with HT and PT. The earlier the RT is implemented, the lower the pain perception and level of disability associated with the lumbar disease.

Keywords: disability; hydrotherapy; low back pain; physical therapy.

Grants and funding

This research received no external funding.