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Motor Control Exercise for Persistent, Nonspecific Low Back Pain

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 Physical Therapy (PJT). This study is great information for the millions of people who suffer from lower back pain.

The review of 14 clinical trials found that “motor control exercises” were better than minimal therapy for lower back pain, and they brought extra relief when added to other therapies — such as standard physical therapy or general exercise.

Motor control exercise is a relatively new way of managing lower back pain. It focuses on teaching patients to control specific deeper muscles in the back and abdomen that move and support the spine. Until now, there had been only limited evidence that the therapy was effective, according to the authors of the review, published in the journal Physical Therapy.

By pooling the results of the 14 studies, Dr. Luciana G. Macedo of The George Institute for International Health in Sidney, Australia, and associates found that motor control exercise helped ease lower back pain in the short- and longer-term, and reduced the risk of patients’ having disability 1 year or longer after treatment.

Motor control exercises are not as simple as taking a walk or going to the gym, however. “People with persistent low back pain should see someone who is trained in this area and a Physical Therapist would be the best person to see,” Macedo explained. Walking, going to the gym and general cardiovascular and strengthening exercises are typically beneficial for people with back pain, however, additional exercises and treatment prove to be most effective.

There is evidence that in some people with persistent back trouble, specific muscles that help control the spine are not working properly, and motor control exercise address that underlying issue. Exercise that focuses on the specific muscles seems to be the key.

Stephen Albanese, PT, CSCS is a licensed Physical Therapist and one of the owners of Physical Therapy & Wellness. Their offices are located in Port Jervis, Montgomery and Monroe. He can be reached at (845) 858-9999 or if you would like any further information.