Motor control or graded activity exercise for chronic low back pain? A randomised controlled trial

The primary aim of this project is to compare the effectiveness of two of the most commonly prescribed exercise interventions: motor control exercises and a graded activity program, for the treatment of chronic non-specific low back pain. The secondary aim is to identify treatment effect modifiers that predict which exercise approach is best for an individual patient. With the large prevalence of chronic low back pain even modest predictive ability could make a substantial contribution to health systems worldwide.


The study is a randomised controlled trial comparing graded activity and motor control exercise for patients with chronic low back pain. Each exercise program consists of 12 individually supervised one hour sessions over an eight-week period, two additional follow-up treatments at 4 and 10 weeks and a home exercise program. Outcomes are measured at two months, six months and 12 months from baseline. Putative predictor variables include patient demographics and clinical characteristics, patients’ beliefs and attitudes about pain, measures of physical activity and fitness and measures of control and coordination of the lumbar spine and pelvis.


Recruitment was completed in November 2009.