This meta-analysis by Chinese researchers looked at five randomised controlled trials comparing core stability exercise and general exercise in treating chronic low back pain. All participants had back pain for longer than three months and they looked at the effects of each intervention over one year or more.
Patients treated with core stability exercise experienced significantly greater reduction in pain intensity less than three months after the intervention, compared with those treated with general exercise – with a mean difference between groups of -1.29. Core stability exercise also resulted in a significant improvement in functional status at less than three months – with a mean difference between groups of -7.14. There was no significant difference between both groups at one year.
What does it mean for GPs?
The authors concluded that the results support those from previous systematic reviews that showed stabilisation exercise was superior to ordinary medical care and treatment by a GP for reducing pain in the short-term.
Dr Majid Artus, a GP and Arthritis Research UK research fellow at Keele University, said the clinical application of the study was ‘unclear’. He said: ‘A large number of Cochrane and individual systematic reviews of a wide range of treatments for non-specific low back pain show exactly the same pattern of only small or at best moderate effectiveness for the short term with no long-term benefit.’