Is Core Stability Exercise Better Than General Exercise for Treating Chronic Low Back Pain?

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An interesting meta-analysis 1, published in PLoS One, decided to review the effects of core stability exercise and general exercise when dealing with people with chronic LBP or low back pain. The results showed that core stability exercise was beneficial for decreasing chronic LBP in the short term.

What Was the Context?

Along with mental illness, LBP happens to be one of the most common disabilities affecting people in Western countries. Chronic LBP is known to psychologically, physically, and financially affect global populations in an adverse manner.

Exercise therapy has been deemed to help with relieving pain as well as improve the overall functionality of people with chronic LBP. Sports medicine and rehabilitation centers have begun to use core stability training. Studies have shown that such exercises are a vital component of LBP rehabilitation.

However, it’s been a bit unclear about whether or not core stability exercise is more beneficial compared to general exercise for patients managing chronic LBP.

With a better understanding of the possible benefits, core stability exercise can be optimized for improved results and to prevent wastage of time and resources during the rehabilitation process.

What Was the Objective?

The current meta-analysis was conducted to observe the effects of administrating core stability exercise as a treatment for chronic LBP while comparing it to general exercise.

What Was the Methodology?

Randomized controlled trials or RCTs were identified from electronic databases such as China Biology Medicine disc, PubMed, Embase, and the Cochrane Library. Duplicates were removed. Also, only the RCTs which examined the effects of core stability exercise compared to general exercise for treating chronic LBP were selected.

The date range for the search was 1970 to October 2011. The selected data featured male and female subjects (all over 18 years) who had chronic LBP that was longer than three months.

Meta-analysis was done through the Review Manager Software (RevMan 5.2). The I2 statistic and the chi-squared test was used to evaluate heterogeneity among the studies.

What Were the Results?

While 229 records were identified, only 28 were potentially eligible, with the final selected articles being only 5. Data shared that for short-term relief from pain, core stability exercise was better compared to general exercise. Take note; no significant changes between the two were observed at 6 months.

Furthermore, in short-term, core stability exercise showed significant improvement in a person’s functional status when compared to general exercise.

What Was Concluded?

The overall results suggested that compared to general exercise, pain relief can be decreased and the back-specific functional status of a patient can be improved through core stability exercise. But the said difference was only observed for the short-term, with no significant differences in relief from pain in intermediate as well as long-term follow-ups.

However, the current results are supported by low-quality data. Further research can help us better understand possible intermediate and long-term benefits.

Also, with yoga, Pilates, and Tai chi being core stability exercises, more research should be conducted to see which exercise would be more beneficial for subjects with chronic LBP.

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