Date of Award


Document Type

Scholarly Project

Degree Name

Master of Physician Assistant Studies (MPAS)


Physician Assistant Studies

First Advisor

Jay Metzger


Exercise Therapy; Low Back Pain; Pain Management; Physical Therapy Modalities; Strengthening; Stretching; Aerobic


Chronic low back pain (CLBP) is currently ranked as the 13th most frequent diagnosis in family practice (DynaMed Plus, 2017). Unfortunately, the severe nature of this pain leads providers to prescribe opiates for these patients. Opiates are effective for short term pain management but they have a significant side effect profile. Other forms of management for CLBP need to be identified and utilized. The purpose of this study was to determine the role exercise therapy plays in the treatment and management of patients with chronic low back pain.

A literature review was conducted in order to find high quality systematic reviews, meta-analyses and randomized controlled trials (RCT) looking at exercise therapy in the management of chronic low back pain. Multiple high quality systematic reviews were found in the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. The reviews analyzed included the topics of Pilates, yoga, motor control exercises, and general exercise. The SPORTDiscus, CINAHL, and PubMed databases were searched for randomized controlled trials (RCT), systematic reviews and meta-analyses that focused on the topic of CLBP and exercise therapy. Studies chosen for this review met the inclusion criteria of: adult-only populations and outcomes measured included decrease in pain intensity. All of the studies were published between 2010 and 2017.

After reviewing the current literature on the effects of exercise therapy in the management of CLBP, it does appear that certain forms of exercise are efficacious for pain control amongst this population. The most effective forms of exercise therapy seem to be those that include a strengthening component. This is encouraging data regarding the future of CLBP management.