Prescription of activity for low back pain: What works?

Christopher Maher*, Jane Latimer, Kathryn Refshauge

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

41 Citations (Scopus)


This paper provides evidence-based guidelines for the prescription of activity in the management of non-specific low back pain (NSLBP). The 62 clinical trials published between 1966 and 1997, identified by a search of the Medline and Cinahl databases, were reviewed to provide the basis for the guidelines. The available evidence suggests that physiotherapists should advise patients with acute and sub-acute NSLBP to avoid bed rest and to return to normal activity using time rather than pain as the guide to activity resumption. While structured exercise programs have not been shown to provide a benefit for acute NSLBP, there is strong evidence to support their use for patients with sub-acute and chronic NSLBP and in the prevention of NSLBP.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)121-132
Number of pages12
JournalAustralian Journal of Physiotherapy
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1999
Externally publishedYes


  • Bed rest
  • Exercise
  • Low back pain
  • Randomized controlled trials


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