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Study Investigates Usefulness Of Swiss Ball

Media Release

22 June 2004

Study investigates usefulness of swiss ball in relieving low back pain

A University of Auckland PhD student is investigating the use of the swiss ball as an intervention tool for the treatment of one of the most common ailments in western society - low back pain.

Almost 80 percent of all people in western societies experience low back pain at some time in their life. In New Zealand, the cost to the Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC) of treatment for low back pain is more than $400 million a year.

Paul Marshall, a PhD student from the Faculty of Science's Department of Sport and Exercise Science, says the swiss ball is widely used in the recreational training environment, but there is little scientific evidence regarding the value of its use.

The Manurewa resident's research will provide information explaining why a patient improves with exercise, and whether the type of treatment given prior to commencing an exercise programme makes any difference to the final outcome.

"It is well established in the research literature that exercise decreases pain intensity and improves the ability of patients with non-specific low back pain to perform daily activities, but it isn't clear why this occurs."

Paul is working on a research project involving multiple treating clinicians throughout the Auckland region. The study is designed to evaluate how patients who have had chronic low back pain for at least 12-weeks, respond to a four-week treatment programme, and then how they respond if they are required to perform a 12-week exercise training regime. The exercise training regime culminated from a through investigation of several exercises using the swiss ball to determine how hard the muscles of the trunk region work.

Anyone interested in participating in the research can contact Paul directly on phone (09) 373 7599 ext. 82139.

The results of a pilot study carried out earlier this year found significant improvements in regard to the level of low back pain in patients.

As part of the pilot programme, patients with low back pain were divided into two groups with one group performing stability exercises using the techniques commonly taught for stability, and the second group performing similar exercises using the swiss ball.

"What I found was that patients who exercised using the swiss ball did slightly better than those who didn't, but there was significant improvement in both groups," says Paul.

After the four-week period both groups used the swiss ball for their training and patients continued to improve.

"What the study has shown so far is that the swiss ball is a good tool for people with low back pain and it works extremely well as part of a specifically designed exercise programme," says Paul.

Paul's study is expected to provide practical information for the administration of post-treatment exercise. He will present the results of his research later this year at the World Congress on Low Back Pain in Australia.


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