Rock Climbing May Be Better Than Standard Exercise for Low Back Pain

Therapeutic climbing, in which patients are led in rock-climbing programs
(usually on indoor climbing walls), is growing in popularity. Previous
research indicated that therapeutic climbing may be beneficial for people
with Autism. Now new research suggests it may be as effective, or more so,
as standard exercises for back pain.

The study included 28 individuals with chronic low back pain (CLBP). Over a
four-week period they participated in either a standard exercise regime for
back pain or in a therapeutic climbing program. Each program involved four
guided training sessions per week.

Before and after the intervention subjects completed the Hannover Functional
Ability Questionnaire for measuring back pain-related disability (FFbH-R)
and the 36-Item Short Form Health Survey (SF-36).

No significant changes were seen on FFbH-R scores. However, both the
exercise group and the climbing group showed significant improvement on
SF-36 scores.

“The benefits of therapeutic climbing were comparable with those of a
standard exercise regime,” conclude the study’s authors. “In two subscales
of the SF-36, the benefits of therapeutic climbing exceeded those of
standard exercise therapy, primarily in perceived health and physical
functioning of the patients. This finding demonstrates that therapeutic
climbing is equivalent and partly superior to standard exercise therapy for
patients with chronic low back pain.”

Spine – May 15, 2011;36:842-49.