A prospective study of patients with chronic back pain randomised to group exercise, physiotherapy or osteopathy

Marjorie Chown, Lynne Whittamore, Mark Rush, Sally Allan, David Stott and Mark Archer

The purpose of this study was to investigate the difference in outcome between patients treated with group exercise, physiotherapy or osteopathy. Two hundred and thirty-nine patients aged 18–65 years were recruited from referrals to the physiotherapy department with chronic low back pain.  Eligible patients were randomised to group exercises led by a physiotherapist, one-to-one predominantly manipulative physiotherapy, or osteopathy.  All three treatments indicated comparable improvements at 6-week follow-up. However, attendance rates were significantly lower among the group exercise patients and one-to-one therapies provided evidence of greater patient satisfaction.

The study supports the use of a variety of approaches for the treatment of chronic low back pain. Particular attention needs to be given to the problems of attracting enough participants for group sessions, as these can be difficult to schedule in ways that are convenient for different participants.

Physiotherapy, 2008, 94(1), 21-28

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