Author: Alan Mozes HealthDay reporter
Wednesday, December 30, 2020 (Health Day)-Chronic low back pain can make the most routine tasks difficult. But a new study shows that patients can learn new, practical and less painful methods through personalized “motor skill training” or MST.
A two-year study of nearly 150 patients found that MST seemed to better alleviate the disability caused by low back pain than the more common but tailored exercise regimens that focus on improving strength and flexibility.
“Our research results show that motor skills training in functional activities is an effective and efficient treatment that can significantly improve the short-term and long-term function of patients with chronic low back pain,” said lead author Linda Van Dillen. She is a professor of physical therapy at Washington University’s St. Louis School of Medicine.
According to Van Dylan, low back pain is very common and is the number one cause of disability. It is the most common cause of chronic pain in American adults.
Van Dillen pointed out that at least 60% to 80% of adults will experience low back pain, and “nearly half of them will experience severe pain by the age of 30.”
However, the researchers said that for patients with chronic low back pain, there is currently no accepted standard of care, and there is no clear understanding of which type of exercise intervention may be the most effective.
In order to better solve this problem, Van Dillen’s team focused on a group of patients who were diagnosed with “non-specific” low back pain. This means that they have tension, stiffness, and/or soreness in the lower back area for no apparent reason.
Before the study started in December 2013, all participants had struggled with low back pain for at least one year.
Participants ranged in age from 18 to 60 years old and were randomly divided into two groups. According to Van Dylan, one group received “trunk and lower limb strength and flexibility therapy”-a common exercise intervention.
Another group participated in MST, which taught patients new ways to perform daily tasks that were difficult due to back pain.
The goal of MST is to zero each patient’s personal posture and movement throughout the day, and then tailor a painless exercise strategy based on their specific daily activities.
Both groups received six weeks of training, one hour per week. Six months later, half of each group also received three “intensification” treatments. The disability questionnaire was completed at the beginning and completed six months and one year later.
Although the ability of both groups to perform daily functions without pain improved, the MST group achieved a “significantly” better benefit (meaning a lower disability score) during the study period.
MST patients are more satisfied with their care and are less likely to use medication to treat back pain. Research has found that they are also less afraid of addressing work-related needs, nor are they likely to avoid normal daily activities.
After six months, patients with MST have fewer episodes of acute back pain and are more likely to keep up with their exercise. The researchers said that a year later, when their back pain suddenly broke out, the situation was less serious.
Dr. Daniel Park, associate professor of plastic surgery at the William Beaumont School of Medicine, Oakland University, Rochester, Michigan, reviewed the results of the study.
He said it remains to be seen how good MST is compared to more common interventions.
Although Parker said these findings appear to be statistically significant and support the benefits of treatment for back pain, he did not say that researchers have shown “significant improvements.”
“I think any structured therapy is beneficial because you want muscle exercise and work to help relieve back pain,” Parker said. “We used to think that rest and relaxation are better. But studies have shown that only short breaks are beneficial. In fact, if you rest too long, the results may be worse.”
Therefore, he added that many doctors recommend that patients take a short break and then start exercising to help the muscles.
The results of the study were published online on December 28 in American Medical Association Neurology.
Source: Linda Van Dillen, PT, PhD, Professor of Physical Therapy and Plastic Surgery, Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis, Missouri; Daniel Park, MD, Associate Professor of Spine Surgery, Oakland University William Beaumont School of Medicine, Rochester, Michigan, Michigan Rochester William Beaumont Hospital-Director of Minimally Invasive Spine Surgery, Royal Oak; JAMA Neurology, December 28, 2020, online
Copyright © 2021 HealthDay. all rights reserved.