Water-Based Exercise in Patients With Nonspecific Chronic Low-Back Pain: A Systematic Review With Meta-Analysis

Carlos Babiloni-Lopez, Nicole Fritz, Rodrigo Ramirez-Campillo, Juan C. Colado

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


ABSTRACT: Babiloni-Lopez, C, Fritz, N, Ramirez-Campillo, R, and Colado, JC. Water-based exercise in patients with nonspecific chronic low-back pain: a systematic review with meta-analysis. J Strength Cond Res 38(1): 206-219, 2024-This study aimed to systematically review and synthesize evidence (i.e., active [land-based training] and nonactive controls [e.g., receiving usual care]) regarding the effects of water-based training on patients with nonspecific chronic low-back pain (NSCLBP). Web of Science (WOS), PubMed (MEDLINE), EMBASE, EBSCO (SPORTDiscus; CINAHL), and PEDro were searched, with no date restrictions, until October 2021. The included studies satisfied the following criteria: (a) NSCLBP (≥12 weeks) patients, (b) water-based intervention, (c) control group (land-based trained; nonactive group), and (d) outcomes related to pain, disability, quality of life, or flexibility. The main outcome analyzed in the meta-analysis was pain intensity. Secondary outcomes included disability, body mass index, and flexibility. The random-effects model was used, and effect size (ES) values are presented with 95% confidence intervals (CIs). The impact of heterogeneity was assessed (I2 statistic), with values of <25%, 25-75%, and >75% representing low, moderate, and high levels, respectively. Alpha was set at p < 0.05. In conclusion, 15 studies (n = 524) were meta-analyzed. After intervention, pain intensity was reduced compared with nonactive controls (ES = -3.61; p < 0.001) and a similar reduction was noted when compared with land-based trained group (ES = -0.14; p = 0.359). Greater decrease in disability (ES = 2.15; p < 0.001) and greater increase in sit-and-reach (i.e., flexibility; ES = -2.44; p < 0.001) were noted after intervention compared with the nonactive group. In conclusion, water-based exercise therapy reduces pain intensity, disability, and increases flexibility in NSCLBP compared with nonactive subjects and was equally effective compared with land-based exercise to reduce pain. Favorable effects may be expected at ≤8 weeks. However, due to several methodological issues (e.g., high heterogeneity), for the improvement of most outcomes, we are unable to provide other than a weak recommendation in favor of intervention compared with control treatment.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)206-219
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Strength and Conditioning Research
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2024

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine
  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation


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