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Open Access Open Badges Study protocol

Rationale and design of a multicenter randomized controlled trial on a 'minimal intervention' in Dutch army personnel with nonspecific low back pain [ISRCTN19334317]

Pieter H Helmhout12*, Chris C Harts1, J Bart Staal2 and Rob A de Bie2

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Training Medicine and Training Physiology, Occupational Health & Safety Service Royal Netherlands Army, P.O. Box 90004, 3509 AA Utrecht, The Netherlands

2 Department of Epidemiology, Maastricht University, P.O. Box 616, 6200 MD Maastricht, The Netherlands

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BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders 2004, 5:40  doi:10.1186/1471-2474-5-40

Published: 9 November 2004



Researchers from the Royal Netherlands Army are studying the potential of isolated lumbar extensor training in low back pain in their working population. Currently, a randomized controlled trial is carried out in five military health centers in The Netherlands and Germany, in which a 10-week program of not more than 2 training sessions (10–15 minutes) per week is studied in soldiers with nonspecific low back pain for more than 4 weeks. The purpose of the study is to investigate the efficacy of this 'minimal intervention program', compared to usual care. Moreover, attempts are made to identify subgroups of different responders to the intervention.


Besides a baseline measurement, follow-up data are gathered at two short-term intervals (5 and 10 weeks after randomization) and two long-term intervals (6 months and one year after the end of the intervention), respectively. At every test moment, participants fill out a compound questionnaire on a stand-alone PC, and they undergo an isometric back strength measurement on a lower back machine.

Primary outcome measures in this study are: self-assessed degree of complaints and degree of handicap in daily activities due to back pain. In addition, our secondary measurements focus on: fear of movement/(re-) injury, mental and social health perception, individual back extension strength, and satisfaction of the patient with the treatment perceived. Finally, we assess a number of potential prognostic factors: demographic and job characteristics, overall health, the degree of physical activity, and the attitudes and beliefs of the physiotherapist towards chronic low back pain.


Although a substantial number of trials have been conducted that included lumbar extension training in low back pain patients, hardly any study has emphasized a minimal intervention approach comparable to ours. For reasons of time efficiency and patient preferences, this minimal sports medicine approach of low back pain management is interesting for the population under study, and possibly for comparable working populations with physical demanding job activities.