By: Dr. Laura Wenger, PT, OCS, FAAOMPT
Low back pain is a common condition that we see daily in our clinic and something we are always seeking new research on as physical therapists to make sure that our treatment approach is up-to-date. One of our integral components of treatment for patients with low back pain is giving an individualized home exercise program to make sure that you can perform movements and exercises that will help to accelerate and maintain the improvements you make with treatment. Though our treatment will sometimes involve a manual therapy (hands-on) component, we will more often than not work to find a complementary exercise so that you can essentially “self-treat” yourself between sessions and beyond your time in physical therapy.
A recent scoping review was published by some of our colleagues that sought to understand the use of home exercise programs in research on low back pain.(1) What this review found was that, out of the 292 studies that they looked at, only 94 of them (32%) included some type of home exercise program in their research.(1) Now, we know that research is not perfect and there are many variables that need to be factored in when designing a research project. However, one thing that we as Doctors of Physical Therapy (DPTs) are taught to look out for when assessing research is how well we can apply the outcomes of the research to the decisions we make on a daily basis when working with you, our patients. In this situation, it is interesting to note that the treatments the researchers are studying are not quite in line with our own, as we (dare I say) always emphasize a home exercise program as part of our successful treatment plan.
So what does this mean for you as our patient? Well, ultimately, I wanted to give you a little insight into our thought processes and allow you to see how we can (or sometimes cannot fully) use the latest research studies to influence the decisions we make to help you on a daily basis. What I hope you can realize is that we are taking the information gathered from research to inform- but not dictate- our clinical decisions, as we know that research conditions are not exactly the same as what we see and do every day in the clinic. Ultimately, factoring in your specific situation along with the research and our own experiences is what leads to the decisions we make every session that we are with you. Here at Tomsic PT we are passionate about giving you the most individualized and best evidence-based treatment that you deserve to help you get back to your goals as soon as possible!
1. Lee GT, Himler P, Rhon DI, Young JL. Home exercise programs are infrequently prescribed in trials of supervised exercise for individuals with low back pain: a scoping review of 292 randomized controlled trials. J Orthop Sports Phys Ther. Published online January 16, 2023. https://www.jospt.org/doi/10.2519/jospt.2023.11448.