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Am J Phys Med Rehabil. 2015 May;94(5):358-65. doi: 10.1097/PHM.0000000000000188.

Efficacy of aerobic exercise for treatment of chronic low back pain: a meta-analysis.

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From the Department of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation, QiLu Hospital, Shandong University, Jinan, P.R. China (X-GM, S-WY); and Department of Rehabilitation Medicine, Shandong Medical College, Jinan, P.R. China (X-GM).



A meta-analysis of relevant cohort studies was performed to investigate the efficacy of aerobic exercise for the treatment of patients with chronic low back pain (CLBP).


A range of electronic databases were searched: MEDLINE (1966-2013), the Cochrane Library Database (issue 12, 2013), EMBASE (1980-2013), CINAHL (1982-2013), Web of Science (1945~2013), and the Chinese Biomedical Database (1982-2013), without language restrictions. The Roland-Morris Disability Questionnaire, the Oswestry Disability Questionnaire, the McGill Pain Questionnaire, visual analog scale, and heart rate, sit-and-reach test, and maximum oxygen consumption were used to evaluate the efficacy of aerobic exercise. Meta-analysis was performed with the use of the STATA statistical software. The standardized mean difference (SMD) with its corresponding 95% confidence interval (CI) was calculated. Eight clinical cohort studies with a total of 310 CLBP patients were included in the meta-analysis.


The results of this meta-analysis indicated that CLBP patients exhibited positive decreases in scores on the Roland-Morris Disability Questionnaire (SMD, 0.44; 95% CI, 0.20-0.68; P < 0.001), Oswestry Disability Questionnaire (SMD, 1.03; 95% CI, 0.67-1.39; P < 0.001), Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale (SMD, 1.35; 95% CI, 0.34-2.37; P = 0.009), and McGill Pain Questionnaire (SMD, 0.32; 95% CI, 0.07-0.56; P = 0.011) after aerobic exercise. It was also observed that aerobic exercise could markedly reduce the visual analog scale score for pain of CLBP patients (SMD, 0.75; 95% CI, 0.48-1.02; P < 0.001). Nevertheless, this study's findings showed that aerobic exercise had no effects on heart rate, sit-and-reach test, and maximum oxygen consumption of CLBP patients (all P > 0.05).


The current meta-analysis provides reliable evidence that aerobic exercise could effectively diminish pain intensity and improve the physical and psychologic functioning of CLBP patients. Thus, aerobic exercise may be a good choice in the treatment for CLBP.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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