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The Reduction of Chronic Nonspecific Low Back Pain Through the Control of Early Morning Lumbar Flexion: A Randomized Controlled Trial

Snook, Stover H., PhD*†; Webster, Barbara S., BSPT, PA-C*; McGorry, Raymond W., MSBE, PT*; Fogleman, Maxwell T., PhD*; McCann, Kathleen B., PhD*

Clinical Studies: Treatment

Study Design. Eighteen-month, randomized controlled trial with partial crossover.

Objectives. To test the hypothesis that the control of lumbar flexion in the early morning will significantly reduce chronic, nonspecific low back pain.

Summary of Background Data. Previous studies have indicated an increased risk of low back pain with bending forward in the early morning, primarily because of increased fluid content in the intervertebral discs at that time.

Methods. After 6 months of recording baseline data, 85 subjects with persistent or recurring low back pain were randomly assigned to treatment and control groups. The treatment group received instruction in the control of early morning lumbar flexion. The control group received a sham treatment of six exercises shown to be ineffective in reducing low back pain. Six months later, the control group received the experimental treatment. Diaries were used to record daily levels of pain intensity, disability, impairment, and medication usage.

Results. Significant reductions in pain intensity (P < 0.01) were recorded for the treatment group, but not for the control group (point estimate, 33%; 95% confidence interval, 11-55%). After receiving the experimental treatment, the control group responded with similar reductions (P < 0.05). Significant reductions also were observed in total days in pain, disability, impairment, and medication usage.

Conclusions. Controlling lumbar flexion in the early morning is a form of self-care with potential for reducing pain and costs associated with chronic, nonspecific low back pain.

From the *Liberty Mutual Research Center for Safety and Health, Hopkinton, and the †Department of Environmental Health, Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, Massachusetts.

Supported by the Liberty Mutual Insurance Company, Boston, MA.

Device status category: 1.

Address reprint requests to: Stover H. Snook, PhD; 10472 S. E. Amberjack Court; Hobe Sound, FL 33455.

© 1998 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.