The type and pain provoking nature of exercise prescribed for low back pain: A survey of Australian health professionals

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Objectives: To explore the type of exercise prescribed by Australian health professionals for LBP, and whether the exercises prescribed are pain-free or into pain. Methods: A survey of physiotherapists and exercise physiologists was conducted from all states/territories in Australia. The survey contained two chronic LBP vignettes with different pain mechanisms (dominant nociceptive or central sensitisation pain) and one acute LBP vignette. Respondents were asked if they would prescribe advice to stay active and exercise. If exercise was prescribed, respondents were asked to specify the type and pain provoking nature (exercise with no pain, exercise to the start of pain, exercise with pain at a tolerable level or exercise irrespective of pain). Results: The response rate was 17%(218/1276). Most respondents prescribed advice to stay active(≥95%) and exercise(≥90%) for all vignettes. Irrespective of the vignette, several exercises were prescribed [aerobic (57–85% of clinicians), motor control (62–84% of clinicians), range of motion (72–75% of clinicians)]. Strengthening exercise was prescribed more for chronic(>60%) than acute LBP(23%). Irrespective of the exercise, between 20 and 25% of respondents prescribed pain-free exercise, between 71 and 79% of respondents prescribed exercise into pain, and ≤4% prescribed exercise irrespective of pain for acute and chronic LBP. Conclusions: Several exercises are prescribed for LBP, irrespective of pain mechanism or duration, with more clinicians prescribing strengthening exercise for chronic than acute LBP. Most clinicians prescribed exercise into pain for acute and chronic LBP, irrespective of the exercise. Further research should determine which exercises are beneficial based on pain mechanism and duration, and whether exercise into pain should be prescribed for LBP.




Summers, S. J., Schabrun, S. M., & Chipchase, L. S. (2018). The type and pain provoking nature of exercise prescribed for low back pain: A survey of Australian health professionals. Musculoskeletal Science and Practice, 38, 37–45.

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