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OBJECTIVE: To evaluate a progressive fitness programme for patients with chronic low back pain. DESIGN: Single blind randomised controlled trial. Assessments were carried out before and after treatment by an observer blinded to the study and included a battery of validated measures. All patients were followed up by postal questionnaire six months after treatment. SETTING: Physiotherapy department of orthopaedic hospital. SUBJECTS: 81 patients with chronic low back pain referred from orthopaedic consultants for physiotherapy. The patients were randomly allocated to a fitness programme or control group. INTERVENTION: Both groups were taught specific exercises to carry out at home and referred to a back-school for education in back care. Patients allocated to the fitness class attended eight exercise classes over four weeks in addition to the home programme and backschool. RESULTS: Significant differences between the groups were shown in the changes before and after treatment in scores on the Oswestry low back pain disability index (P < 0.005), pain reports (sensory P < 0.05 and affective P < 0.005), self efficacy reports (P < 0.05), and walking distance (P < 0.005). No significant differences between the groups were found by the general health questionnaire or questionnaire on pain locus of control. A benefit of about 6 percentage points on the disability index was maintained by patients in the fitness group at six months. CONCLUSION: There is a role for supervised fitness programmes in the management of moderately disabled patients with chronic low back pain. Further clinical trials, however, need to be established in other centres to confirm these findings.

Original publication




Journal article



Publication Date





151 - 154


Adult, Child, Chronic Disease, Cross-Over Studies, Exercise Therapy, Female, Follow-Up Studies, Humans, Low Back Pain, Male, Medical Records, Pain Measurement, Patient Satisfaction, Physical Endurance, Physical Fitness, Program Evaluation, Single-Blind Method, Walking