Chronic low back pain - which type of exercise is best?


Exercise is a common treatment approach for those suffering with chronic low back pain, but little has been researched into what type of exercise works best in reducing pain intensity and improving functionality. Hayden et al. looked into the application of various physical activity types such as core strengthening, general strength, aerobic exercises, Pilates, stretching, yoga, functional restoration, McKenzie therapy, flexibility and mixed exercise types.


All exercise types were consistently more effective than minimal care for reducing pain intensity, and improving functional limitations in those suffering with chronic low back pain. Pilates was found to be most effective for reducing pain intensity, and both Pilates and McKenzie therapy were most effective for functional limitation outcomes.


High dose of most exercise treatments appeared to reduce pain and functional limitation outcomes more than low dose. The addition of co-interventions, such as manual therapy and psychotherapy, further increased outcomes.


Hayden, J.A. et al. (2021). Some types of exercise are more effective than others in people with chronic low back pain: a network meta-analysis. 67, 4. 252-262.