Exercise such as clinical Pilates is often used as a form of therapy for people with a range of chronic lower back conditions. But how effective is this form of exercise therapy at improving clinical outcomes for people with lower back pain? When looking at the research into the benefits of clinical Pilates and other forms of exercise therapy on chronic lower back pain, the results often fail to show any clinically significant improvement in pain and functional outcomes. However this is largely due to poorly designed review studies which look at the combined effects of different exercise interventions with little consistency in exercise principles and variables. So when the results of all these studies are combined, it is not clear which form of exercise is the most beneficial in improving lower back pain. However, a systematic review of the literature, conducted by Canadian researchers in 2005, categorised the most important parameters of an exercise program to reduce lower back pain and improve function.

The main findings of this review where that clinically significant improvements in lower back pain can be made when certain variables of an exercise therapy program are adhered too. This study found that exercise therapy that was specifically individualised to each patient, closely supervised and consistently adhered to result in the most significant clinical outcomes for people with lower back pain. There also appears to be additional benefits when this specific form of exercise therapy is combined with other conservative treatments such as advice on staying active and manual treatments to compliment the effects of exercise therapy.

The 13 week program at MD Health was designed on these very principles of individual specificity, supervision and adherence. We spend an hour conducting a full body assessment to diagnose lower back pain and any other injuries, as accurately as possible. This assessment also gives us data as to the cause of lower back pain or other injuries each individual may have so we can then design an exercise program which is specific to address the causes of lower back pain and other injuries.

Hayden, J. A., Van Tulder, M. W., & Tomlinson, G. (2005). Systematic review: strategies for using exercise therapy to improve outcomes in chronic low back pain. Annals of internal medicine, 142(9), 776-785.

Link to article – https://ergonomics.carolwood.com.br/files/2012/08/coluna_metaanalise.pdf

By Jack Hickey

Exercise Physiologist at MD Health Pilates

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