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Man Ther. 2014 Oct;19(5):425-32. doi: 10.1016/j.math.2014.04.007. Epub 2014 Apr 24.

Altered postural responses persist following physical therapy of general versus specific trunk exercises in people with low back pain.

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  • 1Health and Exercise Sciences Divison, Central Michigan University, Mt. Pleasant, MI, USA. Electronic address:
  • 2Department of Rehabilitation and Movement Science, University of Vermont, Burlington, VT, USA.
  • 3Department of Medical Biostatistics, University of Vermont, Burlington, VT, USA.


Interventions that target trunk muscle impairments in people with LBP have been promoted; however, the treatment effects on muscle activation impairments during postural tasks remain unclear. Thus, our objective was to evaluate the effects trunk stabilization vs. general strength and conditioning exercises on the automatic postural response in persons with chronic low back pain (LBP). Fifty-eight subjects with chronic, recurrent LBP (n = 58) (i.e., longer than six months) were recruited and randomly assigned to one of two, 10-week physical therapy programs: stabilization (n = 29) or strength and conditioning (n = 29). Pain and function were measured at 11 weeks and 6 months post-treatment initiation. To quantify postural following support surface perturbations, surface electrodes recorded electromyography (EMG) of trunk and leg muscles and force plates recorded forces under the feet, to calculate the center of pressure. Both groups demonstrated significant improvements in pain and function out to 6 months. There were also changes in muscle activation patterns immediately post-treatment, but not at 6 months. However, changes in center of pressure (COP) responses were treatment specific. Following treatment, the stabilization group demonstrated later onset of COP displacement, while the onset of COP displacement in the strengthening group was significantly earlier following treatment. Despite two different treatments, clinical improvements and muscle activation patterns were similar for both groups, indicating that the stabilization treatment protocol does not preferentially improve treatment outcomes or inter-muscle postural coordination patterns for persons with LBP.



Copyright © 2014 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.


Electromyography; Low back pain (LBP); Physical therapy; Posture

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