Which Exercise for Low Back Pain? (WELBack) trial predicting response to exercise treatments for patients with low back pain: a validation randomised controlled trial protocol

Luciana G. Macedo*, Paul W. Hodges, Geoff Bostick, Mark Hancock, Maude Laberge, Steven Hanna, Greg Spadoni, Anita Gross, Julia Schneider

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)
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Introduction Exercise therapy is the most recommended treatment for chronic low back pain (LBP). Effect sizes for exercises are usually small to moderate and could be due to the heterogeneity of people presenting with LBP. Thus, if patients could be better matched to exercise based on individual factors, then the effects of treatment could be greater. A recently published study provided evidence of better outcomes when patients are matched to the appropriate exercise type. The study demonstrated that a 15-item questionnaire, the Lumbar Spine Instability Questionnaire (LSIQ), could identify patients who responded best to one of the two exercise approaches for LBP (motor control and graded activity). The primary aim of the current study isill be to evaluate whether preidentified baseline characteristics, including the LSIQ, can modify the response to two of the most common exercise therapies for non-specific LBP. Secondary aims include an economic evaluations with a cost-effectiveness analysis. Methods and analysis Participants (n=414) will be recruited by primary care professionals and randomised (1:1) to receive motor control exercises or graded activity. Participants will undergo 12 sessions of exercise therapy over an 8-week period. The primary outcome will be physical function at 2 months using the Oswestry Disability Index. Secondary outcomes will be pain intensity, function and quality of life measured at 2, 6 and 12 months. Potential effect modifiers will be the LSIQ, self-efficacy, coping strategies, kinesiophobia and measures of nociceptive pain and central sensitisation. We will construct linear mixed models with terms for participants (fixed), treatment group, predictor (potential effect modifier), treatment group×predictor (potential effect modifier), physiotherapists, treatment group×physiotherapists and baseline score for the dependent variable. Ethics and dissemination This study received ethics approval from the Hamilton Integrate Research Ethics Board. Results will be submitted for publication in peer-reviewed journals. Trial registration number NCT04283409.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere042792
Pages (from-to)1-11
Number of pages11
JournalBMJ Open
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 20 Jan 2021

Bibliographical note

Copyright the Author(s) 2020. Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.


  • back pain
  • orthopaedic & trauma surgery
  • public health
  • rehabilitation medicine


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