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Lumbar Stabilization Exercises May Help Decrease Lower Back Pain

Lower back pain is caused by injury to a muscle (strain) or ligament (sprain). Common causes include improper lifting, poor posture, lack of regular exercise, fracture, ruptured disk, or arthritis. Researchers from Lithuanian Sports University have developed and tested a spinal stabilization exercise program for managing lower back pain in people who have sedentary jobs.

The stabilization exercises are designed to strengthen the muscles in the lumbar area, the muscles that support the spine at the lower back. The program is a combination of static and dynamic exercises. Seventy women with sedentary occupations and suffering from lower back pain participated in the study. They participated in the lumbar stabilization exercise program or the lumbar muscle strengthening exercise program for 20 weeks. They exercised twice per week for 45 minutes.

The cross-sectional area of the multifidus muscle (a series of muscles attached to the spinal column) was measured using an ultrasound system. Isokinetic peak torque was measured via an isokinetic dynamometer. Participants evaluated their lower back pain.

Participants in the lumbar stabilization group saw an increase in the cross-section area of the multifidus muscle. The increase was seen as early as 4 weeks into the program and had reached statistical significance by the end of the program. The increase was not seen in the lumbar strengthening group. Both groups saw decreases in lower back pain and strengthening of the muscles in the lumbar area, however participants in the lumbar stabilization group had less lower back pain for 12 weeks after completing the program, compared to 4 weeks in the lumbar strengthening group.

The study was published online ahead of print on January 5, 2020 in the journal Clinical Biomechanics.

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