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Motor Control Exercises Reduces Pain and Disability in Chronic and Recurrent Low Back Pain: A Meta-Analysis

Byström, Martin Gustaf, RPT, MSc*; Rasmussen-Barr, Eva, PhD*,†; Grooten, Wilhelmus Johannes Andreas, PhD*,‡

doi: 10.1097/BRS.0b013e31828435fb
Literature Review

Study Design. Meta-analysis of randomized, controlled trials.

Objective. To determine the short-term, intermediate, and long-term effectiveness of MCE, with regard to pain and disability, in patients with chronic and recurrent low-back pain.

Summary of Background Data. Previous meta-analyses have shown no difference between the effects of MCE and general exercise in the treatment of low back pain. Several high quality studies on this topic have been published lately, warranting a new meta-analysis.

Methods. We searched electronic databases up to October 2011 for randomized controlled trials clearly distinguishing MCE from other treatments. We extracted pain and disability outcomes and converted them to a 0 to 100 scale. We used the RevMan5 (Nordic Cochrane Centre, Copenhagen, Denmark) software to perform pooled analyses to determine the weighted mean differences (WMDs) between MCE and 5 different control interventions.

Results. Sixteen studies were included. The pooled results favored MCE compared with general exercise with regard to disability during all time periods (improvement in WMDs ranged from −4.65 to −4.86), and with regard to pain in the short and intermediate term (WMDs were −7.80 and −6.06, respectively). Compared with spinal manual therapy, MCE was superior with regard to disability during all time periods (the WMDs ranged between −5.27 and −6.12), but not with regard to pain. Furthermore, MCE was superior to minimal intervention during all time periods with regard to both pain (the WMDs ranged between −10.18 and −13.32) and disability (the WMDs ranged between −5.62 and −9.00).

Conclusion. In patients with chronic and recurrent low back pain, MCE seem to be superior to several other treatments. More studies are, however, needed to investigate what subgroups of patients experiencing LBP respond best to MCE.

This meta-analysis was aimed to determine the effect of motor control exercise (MCE) in the treatment of chronic and recurrent low back pain. The results favor MCE over general exercise and minimal intervention with regard to pain and disability, and over spinal manual therapy with regard to disability.

*Department of Neurobiology, Division of Physiotherapy Caring Sciences, and Society, Karolinska Institute, Huddinge, Sweden

Institute of Environmental Medicine, Karolinska Institute, Stockholm, Sweden

Department of Health Sciences, Division of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, Karolinska Institute, Stockholm, Sweden

Address correspondence and reprint requests to Eva Rasmussen-Barr, PhD, Karolinska Institute, Division of Physiotherapy, Department of Neurobiology, Caring Sciences, and Society, 23 100, S-141 76 Huddinge, Sweden; E-mail:

Acknowledgment date: August 23, 2012. Revision date: December 10, 2012. Acceptance date: December 11, 2012.

The manuscript submitted does not contain information about medical device(s)/drug(s).

No funds were received in support of this work.

No relevant financial activities outside the submitted work.

© 2013 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.