By Riva Preil
Pain in the low back can be a real pain in the neck. Unfortunately, low back pain (LBP) is all too common– an estimated 60-80% of people worldwide suffer from LBP at some point in their lives. Traditional treatment for LBP includes lumbar strengthening exercises as well as various modalities, including ultrasonography and short wave diathermy. It has been suggested that strengthening the bottom portion of the core, the pelvic floor muscles, would further assist in decreasing LBP due to its contribution to balance, stability, flexibility, and assistance with movement.
Researchers in China at the Pudong New District Gongli Hospital, decided to ascertain the validity of this hypothesis (Pelvic floor muscle exercise for chronic low back pain, Journal of International Medical Research). In their randomized controlled trial, participants were assigned to a control group and an experimental group and underwent treatment for twenty four weeks. The control group received routine treatment, including lumbar strengthening exercises (ex. prone leg lifts, prone chest lifts, and bridging), ultrasonography, and short wave diathermy. The experimental group received the same treatment as the control group as well as pelvic floor muscle (PFM) strengthening exercises, which included contracting the PFM for six seconds followed by relaxing the PFM for six seconds. This was performed for 5 minutes in total during week one, 10 minutes during week two, 15 minutes during week three, and 20 minutes during weeks four to twenty four. At the 6 month follow up, the intervention group participants reported much lower pain levels and had improved scores on their functional outcome measure (Oswestry Disability Index) compared to the control group. The take home message is: donâ€™t forget about your pelvic floor while strengthening your back! If you need help learning how to properly activate and strengthen your PFM, please contact us at Beyond Basics Physical Therapy- we are here to help!