European Spine Journal

, Volume 4, Issue 3, pp 148–152 | Cite as

Active treatment programs for patients with chronic low back pain: a prospective, randomized, observer-blinded study

  • A. F. Bendix
  • T. Bendix
  • S. Ostenfeld
  • E. Bush
  • A. Andersen
Original Articles


Several new studies have indicated that an active approach to patients with chronic disabling low back pain (LBP) seems effective. Some of these studies emphasize the importance of dealing with the patient's total situation in comprehensive multidisciplinary programs — the bio-psycho-social model. However, these programs are expensive. The aim of this study was to evaluate the rehabilitation outcome from three different active programs in terms of: (1) return-to-work rate, (2) days of sick leave, (3) health-care contacts, (4) pain and disability scores, and (5) staying physically active. The subjects included 132 patients randomized to the study, of whom 123 started one of the treatment programs. They had all had at least 6 months of chronic LBP. The patients were randomized into one of three programs: group 1 — a full-time, intensive 3-week multidisciplinary program, including active physical and ergonomic training and psychological pain management, followed by 1 day weekly for the subsequent 3 weeks; group 2 — active physical training, twice a week for 6 weeks, for a total of 24h; group 3 — psychological pain management combined with active physical training, twice a week for 6 weeks, also for a total of 24h. The results presented here are based on data collected 4 months following treatment, which shows an 86% response rate. The initial examination and the follow-up evaluation were performed by a blinded observer. The results show that 4 months after treatment, the intensive multidisciplinary program is superior to the less intensive programs in terms of return-to-work rate, health-care contacts, pain and disability scores, and staying physically active. In conclusion, it seems that although the multidisciplinary program is initially expensive compared to the less intensive programs, the savings in sick pay, early retirement pensions, and health care contacts make it economically worthwhile. Long-term follow-up will show whether this effect continues.

Key words

Low back pain Rehabilitation Physical fitness Psychological pain management Occupational medicine 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1995

Authors and Affiliations

  • A. F. Bendix
    • 1
  • T. Bendix
    • 1
  • S. Ostenfeld
    • 1
  • E. Bush
    • 1
  • A. Andersen
    • 1
  1. 1.Copenhagen Back CenterNational University HospitalCopenhagenDenmark

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