Can Balance Affect Your Back Pain?

By Chris Kaczmarek, PT, DPT, OCS, CSCS

 Do you or someone you know deal with chronic low back pain?   You are not alone.  In theUnited States, next to the common cold, back pain is the second leading cause for seeking medical attention.  It can be caused by numerous structures in our body and the symptoms can be very devastating.

Treatment strategies over the years have focused on restoring flexibility, improving overall core strength and stability, improving spinal mobility and helping to properly perform correct sitting postures and lifting mechanics.  Could there be something else to help those who have not responded well to these treatments?

In a recent article published in the Journal of Orthopaedic & Sports Physical Therapy1, a missing component to the overall spectrum of treatment for those with chronic low back pain may have been uncovered.   One of the hypothesized reasons for back pain could be improper sequencing of muscle activity.  Essentially some muscles fire and work when they are supposed to but others do not.  A person can have great physical strength, but if the timing is off the forces that go through our back with activity do not get transferred correctly and can lead to pain.

What these researchers looked at was constructing a treatment program that included core trunk balance stability training.  Balance training causes all the muscles to work simultaneous to achieve a specific movement, stability or activity.  They took two groups of individuals all with low back symptoms greater than 3 months duration and put both groups through the same treatment consisting of treadmill walking and general flexibility training exercises.  The control group performed in addition to that 15 minutes of general strengthening exercises while the experimental group did 15 minutes of trunk balance exercises.

Their findings demonstrated significant improvements in the group that performed the core balance training program.  The improvements were a reduction in  level of disability (meaning they feel they have less impairment and activity limitation due to their back pain),  increased self reported overall physical quality of life, and had reduction in pain with certain positions.   These findings show some positive support that individuals with chronic low back pain can still improve their overall quality of life and function better with daily activities as a result of improving trunk balance.

Not all treatment programs are effective for everyone.  It is critical to get examined by a trained therapist to see which program is right for you.  Contact your KORT Physical Therapist to determine if you could benefit from this treatment intervention.

1Gatti R, Faccendini S, et al.  Efficacy of trunk balance exercises for individuals with chronic low back pain: A randomized clinical trial.  J Ortho Sports Phys Ther. 2011;41:542-552


Chris Kaczmarek PT, DPT, OCS, CSCS and KORT Physical Therapy Regional Director earned his Doctor of Physical Therapy degree fromRegisUniversityin 2008 and a Master’s in Physical Therapy degree fromThomasJeffersonUniversityinPhiladelphia,PAin 1999. In practice since 1999, he is experienced in treating all areas of orthopedics and is a Board Certified Specialist in Orthopaedics (OCS). In 2008, he became the Regional Director for theLexingtonmarket. Chris has been the Regional Director for theLexingtonmarket since 2008. Chris currently serves as a Member of Kentucky Physical Therapy Association Public Policy and Research Committee.

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