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Acute Effects of a Brief Physical Exercise Intervention on Somatosensory Perception, Lumbar Strength, and Flexibility in Patients with Nonspecific Chronic Low-Back Pain

Authors Sitges C, Velasco-Roldán O, Crespí J, García-Dopico N, Segur-Ferrer J, González-Roldán AM, Montoya P

Received 1 September 2020

Accepted for publication 14 November 2020

Published 18 February 2021 Volume 2021:14 Pages 487—500

DOI https://doi.org/10.2147/JPR.S274134

Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single anonymous peer review

Peer reviewer comments 3

Editor who approved publication: Dr Robert B. Raffa


Carolina Sitges,1,2 Olga Velasco-Roldán,1,3 Jaume Crespí,1 Nuria García-Dopico,1 Joan Segur-Ferrer,1 Ana María González-Roldán,1,2 Pedro Montoya1,2

1Research Institute of Health Sciences (IUNICS) and Balearic Islands Health Research Institute (IdISBa), University of the Balearic Islands (UIB), Palma, Spain; 2Departament of Psychology, UIB, Palma, Spain; 3Departament of Nursing and Physiotherapy, UIB, Palma, Spain

Correspondence: Carolina Sitges
Research Institute of Health Sciences (IUNICS), University of Balearic Islands (UIB), Carretera de Valldemossa km 7.5, Palma, 07122, Spain
Tel +34 971-259-885
Fax +34 971259501
Email carol.sitges@uib.es

Background: Evidence-based clinical guidelines consider physical exercise one of the best nonpharmacological interventions for low-back pain (LBP), but it is necessary to clarify the exercise-induced hypoalgesia effect of different modalities of exercise in chronic pain populations.
Purpose: This study focused on exploring acute changes in tactile and pressure-pain perception and lumbar strength and flexibility in patients with nonspecific chronic LBP (NSCLBP) after performing one of three 20-minute physical exercise modalities.
Methods: A total of 81 patients with NSCLBP were pseudorandomly distributed into three groups of 20-minute physical exercise — 1) aerobic (n=21, mean age 42± 9.72 years, nine men), 2) stretching (n=21, mean age 40± 11.37 years, ten men), and 3) strengthening (n=20, mean age 35.80± 11.56 years, ten men) — and 4) a control group (n=19, mean age 38.64± 10.24 years, eight men), and completed self-reported questionnaires during the same period. Tactile and pressure-pain thresholds and isometric lumbar muscle endurance and flexibility were assessed before and after this brief exercise-based intervention.
Results: All groups were comparable in terms of sociodemographic and clinical data, cardiovascular capacity, and self-reported data onphysical disability, mood, motivation, psychological response to stimulus properties of physical exercise, and physical activity enjoyment. Our analyses revealed higher tactile sensitivity (p< 0.001) and pressure-pain thresholds (p< 0.001) at the forefinger than other body locations. We also found lower pain sensitivity (p=0.010) and pressure pain–intensity ratings (p=0.001) and higher lumbar flexibility (p< 0.001) after intervention. After calculation of absolute pre–post differences, higher tactile sensitivity was observed at the gluteus medius muscle than the erector spinal muscle only after aerobic intervention (p=0.046).
Conclusion: These results add some evidence about different modalities of exercise-induced hypoalgesia in NSCLBP. However, the fact that we also found improvements in the control group limits our conclusions.

Keywords: low-back pain, exercise therapy, aerobic exercise, flexibility

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