Exercises are "New Approach to an Old Problem"
ALEXANDRIA, VA, January 28, 2009 — Motor control exercises,
when performed in conjunction with other forms of therapy, can
significantly reduce pain and disability in patients with persistent low
back pain, according to a new systematic review published in the January
issue of Physical
Therapy (PTJ), the scientific journal of the American
Physical Therapy Association (APTA). In addition to feeling less pain,
patients performing these types of exercises are able to be more
physically active and experience positive effects over a longer period
of time than those who receive other treatments, according to
Motor control exercise, also known as specific stabilization
exercise, is a new form of exercise for back pain that has gained the
attention of researchers and health practitioners over the past decade.
The exercise focuses on regaining control of the trunk muscles, also
known as the transversus abdominis and multifidus, which support and
control the spine. Previous studies of patients with low back pain have
shown they are unable to properly control these muscles. Through motor
control exercise, patients are taught how to isolate and "switch on"
these muscles and then incorporate these movements into their normal
"Although the exercises seemed promising, until now we did not have
clear evidence on whether or not they were more effective," according to
researcher Luciana G Macedo, PT, MSc, a PhD student at The George
Institute for International Health in Sydney, Australia.
"It is important to note that this form of exercise is different from
going to the gym or going for a walk," explained Macedo." The program
relies upon a skilled clinician, such as a physical therapist,
identifying the specific trunk muscles that are a problem and then
working closely with patients to teach them how to get the muscles
working properly again. The patient first learns to control these
muscles in simple postures, then later in more challenging activities.
The ultimate goal is for the patient to get the muscles to work to
control and support the spine in those activities that previously caused
"Low back pain is an international health problem with enormous
economic and social costs," added Macedo. "In America alone, the
treatment cost of back pain is estimated to be $86 billion per year or
9% of the country's total health expenditure. The search for new ways to
manage this old problem is critical in order to improve the health and
quality of life of individuals who struggle with this condition."
The report in PTJ systematically reviewed and then summarized
14 randomized, controlled trials, evaluating the effectiveness of motor
control exercises for persistent, low back pain. An abstract of the study can be found on the PTJ
Physical therapists are highly-educated, licensed health care
professionals who can help patients reduce pain and improve or restore
mobility -- without expensive surgery or the side effects of
medications. APTA represents more than 70,000 physical therapists,
physical therapist assistants, and students of physical therapy
nationwide. Its purpose is to improve the health and quality of life of
individuals through the advancement of physical therapist practice.
Learn more about conditions physical therapists can treat at www.apta.org/consumer, and find a physical therapist
in your area at www.findapt.us.