Low back pain exercise therapy: Swiss ball or floor exercises?

Low back pain Swiss ball Low back pain exerciseaffects most people at least once in their lives. Although most cases of low back pain go away without any therapy or other intervention, some become chronic and require a form of therapy. Several forms of exercise therapy have been proven effective. Among these is exercise therapy using a Swiss ball. However, there is some debate as to whether exercises using the Swiss Ball are more effective in treating chronic low back pain than the same kind of exercises performed on the floor. The following study performed by researchers from Daegu University in South Korea aimed to find an answer to the question which form of low back pain exercise is most effective.

What did the researchers do?

The researchers recruited 36 patients Low back pain exercisewho suffered from chronic low back pain, whom were randomly divided into three groups. A control group, a group that performed exercises on the floor and a group that performed the exercises on a Swiss Ball. All groups were treated for three times a week for 16 weeks. The control group was treated with a combination of Interference Current, hot pack and deep-heat therapy. Methods that are ineffective in treating low back pain, but the patients the control group were unaware of this. The Floor Exercise group performed exercises such as the Supine Bridge, Sit Up and Side Bridge. The Swiss Ball Exercise group performed the same exercises on the Swiss Ball. Before and after 8 and 16 weeks, pain intensity was measured using a Visual Analogue Pain Scale.

What were the results?

The results are depicted in the figure below.

Low back pain exercise










Figure 1: Pain intensity (VAS) at baseline, 8 Weeks and 16 Weeks.

After 8 Weeks of therapy the control group did not show any decrease in pain intensity. Both the Floor Exercise and Swiss Ball Exercise groups did show significant decreases in pain intensity. After 16 weeks of therapy the control group still did not show any progress. Both the Floor Exercise and Swiss Ball Exercise group again significantly decreased pain intensity. However the Swiss Ball Exercise group enjoyed a significantly larger decrease in pain intensity compared to the Floor Exercise group.

What did the researchers conclude?

The researchers concluded that both floor exercises and Swiss Ball exercises are effective methods to treat chronic low back pain. However, Swiss Ball exercise therapy proved to be more effective than floor exercises.

What does this mean for me?

Both stability exercises performed on the floor and on a Swiss Ball can be very effective in treating chronic low back pain. However Swiss Ball exercises are more effective, especially in the long term. Employing Swiss ball exercises is a more effective way to treat low back pain than regular floor exercises.

See also:

-Core stability training on unstable devices


-Yoo, J.S., Lee, J.H., Kim, J.S. The Effect of Swiss Ball Stabilization Exercise on Pain and Bone Mineral Density of Patients with Chronic Low Back Pain. Journal of Physical Therapy Science 2013, 25, 953-956.