Long-Term Exercise Adherence in the Elderly with Chronic Low Back Pain : American Journal of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation

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Research Article: Back Pain

Long-Term Exercise Adherence in the Elderly with Chronic Low Back Pain

Mailloux, Julie PsyD; Finno, Mark MD; Rainville, James MD

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American Journal of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation 85(2):p 120-126, February 2006. | DOI: 10.1097/01.phm.0000197580.64079.3d


Mailloux J, Finno M, Rainville J: Long-term exercise adherence in the elderly with chronic low back pain. Am J Phys Med Rehabil 2006;85:120–126.


Chronic back pain is common in the elderly population and can be treated with exercise. Long-term adherence to exercise recommendations has been documented in adults of <65 yrs of age but not for elderly adults. This study explored exercise behaviors of elderly adults with a history of chronic back pain before and 2 yrs after treatment in an exercise-oriented rehabilitation program.


This study utilized a case series design to survey 126 subjects >65 yrs old who underwent physical therapy during the year 2000 for complaints of chronic low back pain. Of these, 89 (70%) responded to the 2-yr questionnaire. Outcome measures included visual analog scale for pain, Oswestry disability questionnaires, back flexibility and strength, and a questionnaire exploring exercise behaviors. All subjects underwent a 6-wk physical therapy program that consisted of exercise coupled with advice to remain active.


Improvements in flexibility and strength occurred during treatment. Mean Oswestry disability scores (0–100 scale) improved from 32 to 20, and pain scores (0–10 scale) from 5.0 to 3.0 during treatment (P < 0.001) and were maintained at the 2-yr follow-up, regardless of exercise adherence. The percentage of patients who performed at least some exercise increased from 49% before treatment to 72% at the 2-yr follow-up. The changes in disability or pain observed during treatment did not influence exercise compliance. The most frequently stated reasons for nonadherence was that exercise did not help or aggravated pain (33%). For those who exercised regularly, 80% did so because of the health benefits from exercise.


The exercise behaviors of many elderly adults with chronic low back pain can increase after an exercise-oriented spine physical therapy program.

© 2006 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.

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