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This type of program -- called motor control exercise -- begins with patients practicing normal use of these muscles by doing simple tasks, usually with guidance from a therapist or expert. The exercises gradually become more demanding and include activities that patients typically do during work or recreation.
Researchers analyzed data from 29 clinical trials that included more than 2,400 people, aged 22 to 55, with lower back pain. The trials compared the effectiveness of motor control exercise with other types of exercise or with doing nothing.
Patients who did motor control exercise showed greater improvement, with less pain and disability, than those who did nothing. When comparing motor control exercise and other types of exercise after three to 12 months, similar improvements in the motor control group were seen.
The study was published Jan. 7 in the Cochrane Library.
"Targeting the strength and coordination of muscles that support the spine through motor control exercise offers an alternative approach to treating lower back pain," said lead author Bruno Saragiotto, a physiotherapist at the George Institute at the University of Sydney in Australia.
"We can be confident that they are as effective as other types of exercise, so the choice of exercise should take into account factors such as patient or therapist preferences, cost and availability," he said in a journal news release.
"At present, we don't really know how motor control exercise compares with other forms of exercise in the long term. It's important we see more research in this field so that patients can make more informed choices about persisting with treatment," he added.
-- Robert Preidt
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SOURCE: Cochrane Library, news release, Jan. 6, 2016