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Pain Education With Therapeutic Exercise in Chronic Nonspecific Low Back Pain Rehabilitation: A Critically Appraised Topic

Kaitlyn C. Jones, Evelyn C. Tocco, Ashley N. Marshall, Tamara C. Valovich McLeod, and Cailee E. Welch Bacon

Clinical Scenario: Low back pain is widely prevalent in the general population as well as in athletes. Therapeutic exercise is a low-risk and effective treatment option for chronic pain that can be utilized by all rehabilitation clinicians. However, therapeutic exercise alone does not address the psychosocial aspects that are associated with chronic low back pain. Pain education is the umbrella term utilized to encompass any type of education to the patient about their chronic pain. Therapeutic exercise in combination with pain education may allow for more well-rounded and effective treatment for patients with chronic nonspecific low back pain (NS-LBP). Clinical Question: Does pain education combined with therapeutic exercise, compared with therapeutic exercise alone, improve patient pain in adults with chronic NS-LBP over a 2- to 3-month treatment period? Summary of Key Findings: A thorough literature review yielded 8 studies potentially relevant to the clinical question, and 3 studies that met the inclusion criteria were included. The 3 studies included reports that exercise therapy reduced symptoms. Two of the 3 included studies support the claim that exercise therapy reduces the symptoms of chronic NS-LBP when combined with pain education, whereas one study found no difference between pain education with therapeutic exercise. Clinical Bottom Line: There is moderate evidence to support the use of pain education along with therapeutic exercise when attempting to reduce symptoms of pain and disability in patients with chronic NS-LBP. Educational interventions should be created to educate patients about the foundation of pain, and pain education should be implemented as a part of the clinician’s strategy for the rehabilitation of patients with chronic NS-LBP. Strength of Recommendation: Grade B evidence exists to support the use of patient education with therapeutic exercise for decreasing pain in patients with chronic NS-LBP.