High intensity training improves symptoms of central sensitization at six-month follow-up in persons with chronic nonspecific low back pain: Secondary analysis of a randomized controlled trial

J. Verbrugghe*, A. Agten, S. Stevens, F. Vandenabeele, N. Roussel, J. Verbunt, N. Goossens, A. Timmermans

*Corresponding author for this work

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Background: High intensity training (HIT) improves disability and physical fitness in persons with chronic nonspecific low back pain (CNSLBP). However, it remains unclear if HIT affects pain proc-essing and psychosocial factors.Objective: To evaluate 1) the effects of HIT on symptoms of central sensitization and perceived stress and 2) the relationship of symptoms of central sensitization and perceived stress with therapy success, at six-month follow-up, in persons with CNSLBP.Methods: This is a secondary analysis of a previously published randomized controlled trial. Per-sons with CNSLBP (n = 51, age=43.6y) completed the Central Sensitization Inventory (CSI) and Perceived Stress Scale (PSS) at baseline (PRE) and six months after 12-week of HIT consisting of concurrent exercise therapy (FU). Two groups were formed based on CSI scores (low-CSI/high-CSI). First, linear mixed models were fitted for each outcome, with time and groups as covari-ates. Multiple comparisons were executed to evaluate group (baseline), time (within-group), and interaction (between-group) effects. Second, correlation and regression analyses were per-formed to evaluate if baseline and changes in CSI/PSS scores were related to therapy success, operationalized as improvements on disability (Modified Oswestry Disability Index), and pain intensity (Numeric Pain Rating Scale).Results: Total sample analyses showed a decrease in both CSI and PSS. Within-group analyses showed a decrease of CSI only in the high-CSI group and a decrease of PSS only in the low-CSI group. Between-group analyses showed a pronounced decrease favouring high-CSI (mean differ-ence: 7.9; 95%CI: 2.1, 12.7) and no differences in PSS (mean difference: 0.1; 95%CI:-3.0, 3.2). CSI, but not PSS, was weakly related to therapy success.Conclusion: HIT improves symptoms of central sensitization in persons with CNSLBP. This effect is the largest in persons with clinically relevant baseline CSI scores. HIT also decreases perceived stress.(c) 2023 Associacao Brasileira de Pesquisa e Pos-Graduacao em Fisioterapia. Published by Elsevier Espana, S.L.U. All rights reserved.
Original languageEnglish
Article number100496
Number of pages10
JournalRevista Brasileira de Fisioterapia
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2023


  • Central sensitization
  • Chronic low back pain
  • High intensity training
  • Long term effects
  • Rehabilitation

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