Low Back Pain—Is Motor Control Exercise Superior to General Exercise? A Review of the Research

by Nick Tumminello, NSCA-CPT
Personal Training Quarterly July 2016
Vol 3, Issue 3


This article provides an overview of the scientific evidence comparing specific motor control exercise intervention to using a more general exercise approach, and concludes by discussing the practical implications for strength and conditioning professionals from an exercise programming perspective.

Paywall block issue

This article is not configured properly for members or paid content.
isMemberOnly: {{isMemberOnly}} | isPaidContent: {{isPaidContent}}
spc: One or more parts of the product SPC is missing.

Read the full article

View the video

Login to view more

{{discountDesc}} Valid thru {{discountEnds}}

This {{ogType == 'video.other' ? 'video':'article'}} is available with a NSCA membership

This {{ogType == 'video.other' ? 'video':'article'}} can be purchased for {{prices}}
Price includes membership pricing and promotions

Purchase this {{ogType == 'video.other' ? 'video':'article'}}. Price range: {{prices}}
Price range includes membership pricing and promotions

Become a Member Add to Cart Login

This article originally appeared in Personal Training Quarterly (PTQ)—a quarterly publication for NSCA Members designed specifically for the personal trainer. Discover easy-to-read, research-based articles that take your training knowledge further with Nutrition, Programming, and Personal Business Development columns in each quarterly, electronic issue. Read more articles from PTQ »



1. Al-Eisa, E, Egan, D, Deluzio, K, and Wassersug, R. Effects of pelvic skeletal asymmetry on trunk movement three-dimensional analysis in healthy individuals versus patients with mechanical low back pain. Spine 31(3): E71-79, 2006. 
2. Bogduk, N. Management of chronic low back pain. The Medical Journal of Australia. 180)(2): 79-83, 2004. 
3. Cairns, MC, Foster, NE, and Wright, C. Randomized  controlled trial of specific spinal stabilization exercises and conventional physiotherapy for recurrent low back pain. Spine 31(19): E670-681, 2006. 
4. Champagne, A, Descarreaux, M, and Lafon, D. Comparison between elderly and young males’ lumbopelvic extensor muscle endurance assessed during a clinical isometric back extension test. Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics 32(7): 521526, 2009. 
5. Choi, B, Verbeek, JH, Tam, WW, and Jiang, JY. Exercises for prevention of recurrences of low-back pain. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 20(1): 2010. 
6. Ferreira, ML, Ferreira, PH, Latimer, J, Herbert, RD, Hodges, PW, Jennings, MD, et al. Comparison of general exercise, motor control exercise and spinal manipulative therapy for chronic low back pain: A randomized trial. Pain 131(1-2): 31-37, 2007.
7. Gondhalekar, GA, Kumar, SP, Eapen, C, Mahale, A. Reliability and validity of standing back extension test for detecting motor control impairment in subjects with low back pain. Journal of Clinical and Diagnostic Research. 10(1): KC7-11, 2016. 
8. Harris-Hayes, M, Van Dillen, LR, and Sahrmann, SA. Classification, treatment and outcomes of a patient with lumbar extension syndrome. Physiotherapy Theory and Practice 21(3):  181-96, 2005. 
9. Koumantakis, GA, Watson, PJ, and Oldham, JA. Trunk muscle stabilization training plus general exercise versus general exercise only: Randomized controlled trial of patients with recurrent low back pain. Physical Therapy 85(3): 209-225, 2005. 
10. Luomajoki, H, Kool, J, de Bruin, ED, and Airaksinen, O. Reliability of movement control tests in the lumbar spine. BioMed Central Musculoskeletal Disorders 8: 90, 2007. 
11. Macedo, LG, Saragiotto, BT, Yamato, TP, Costa, LOP, Costa, LCM, Ostelo, RWJG, and Maher, CG. Motor control exercise for acute non-specific low back pain. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews CD012085, 2016. 
12. Maher, CG, Latimer, J, Hodges, PJ, Refshauge, KM, Moseley, GL, Herbert, RD, et al. The effect of motor control exercise versus placebo in patients with chronic low back pain. BioMed Central Musculoskeletal Disorders 6: 54, 2005. 
13. Manchikanti, L. Epidemiology of low back pain. Pain Physician. 3(2): 167-192, 2000. 
14. Martuscello, JM, et al. Systematic review of core muscle activity during physical fitness exercises. The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research 27(6): 1684-1698, 2013. 
15. McGill, SM. Low back exercises: evidence for improving exercise regimens. Physical Therapy 78(7): 754-765, 1998. 
16. O’Sullivan, PB. Diagnosis and classification of chronic low back pain disorders: Maladaptive movement and motor control impairments as underlying mechanism. Manual Therapy 10(4): 242255, 2005. 
17. O’Sullivan, PB. Lumbar segmental “instability:” Clinical presentation and specific stabilizing exercise management. Manual Therapy 5(1): 2-12, 2000. 
18. Richardson, CA, Jull, GA, and Hodges, PW, et al. Therapeutic Exercise for Spinal Segmental Stabilization in Low Back Pain. Edinburgh: Churchill Livingstone, 1999. 
19. Saner, J, Kool, J, Sieben, JM, Luomajoki, H, Bastiaenen, CHG, and de Bie, RA. A tailored exercise program versus general exercise for a subgroup of patients with low back pain and movement control impairment: A randomised controlled trial with one-year follow-up. Manual Therapy 20(5): 672-279, 2015. 
20. Saner, J, Sieben, JM, Kool, J, Luomajoki, H, Bastiaenen, CHG, and de Bie, RA. A tailored exercise program versus general exercise for a subgroup of patients with low back pain and movement control impairment: Short-term results of a randomised controlled trial. Journal of Bodywork Movement Therapies 20(1): 189-202, 2015.
21. Saragiotto, BT, Maher, CG, Yamato, TP, Costa, LOP, Costs, LCM, Ostelo, RWJG, and Macedo, LG. Motor control exercise for chronic non-specific low-back pain. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews CD012004, 2016. 
22. Tétreau, C, Dubois, JD, Piché, M, and Descarreaux, M. Modulation of pain-induced neuromuscular trunk responses by pain expectations: A single group study. Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics 35(8): 636-644, 2012. 
23. Tidstrand, J, and Horneji, E. Inter-rater reliability of three standardized functional tests in patients with low back pain. BioMed Central Musculoskeletal Disorders 10: 58, 2009.

About the author

Nick Tumminello, NSCA-CPT

Contact Nick Tumminello

Contact Nick Tumminello

Your first name is required.
Your last name is required.
Your email is required.
Your message is required.
Your reCaptcha is required.

Your email was successfully sent to Nick Tumminello

Nick Tumminello has become known as the Trainer of Trainers for his ability to provide simple, honest, and immediately applicable solutions to common ...

View full biography
#NSCAStrong #NSCAStrong

has been added to your shopping cart!

Continue Shopping Checkout Now