OBJECTIVE: To define the effects of therapeutic exercise on bone density and back complaints. METHODS: A randomised controlled trial with parallel groups was conducted in an outpatient clinic, Medical School, University of Vienna. Ninety two sedentary post-menopausal women with back problems were randomly allocated to either exercise (groups 1 and 2) or control (group 3, no exercise, n = 31); the exercise group was retrospectively subdivided into compliant (group 1, n = 27) and not fully compliant patients (group 2, n = 34). Regular, initially supervised therapeutic exercise aimed at restoring biomechanical function was performed for four years. Bone density in the forearm was measured by single photon absorptiometry at entry and after four years; subjective back complaints were documented. RESULTS: A significant decrease in bone density was observed in groups 2 and 3; no change was noted in group 1; back complaints decreased in group 1 only. CONCLUSIONS: Sedentary postmenopausal women may benefit from regular long term therapeutic exercise in terms of subjective back complaints and slowed loss of bone mass.
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