This study examined the effects of sling exercise for patients with chronic low back pain. The authors reviewed all relevant papers indexed in PubMed, SCOPUS, and the Cochrane Registered Trials. Eligible trials were randomized controlled trials that compared sling exercise with any type of treatment. Data on muscle thickness, muscle activation, pain, and disability were gathered and assessed for methodological quality. Seven studies met the inclusion criteria. When sling exercise had an impact on activation of the trunk muscles, increasing the trunk muscle thickness, and the reduction in pain and disability had been assessed shortly following the final exercise session, it was more effective than general exercise at activating trunk muscles, but not more effective at increasing trunk muscle thickness and improving pain and disability than general exercise.
As sling therapy studies are based on a small number of trials, conclusions about the therapeutic effects of sling exercise can’t be drawn. When segmental stabilizing exercise and individually designed programs are added to sling exercise, it increases the effectiveness of sling exercise at improving low back pain. This should be the focus of future studies.