[Purpose] This study investigated effects of sling exercise for patients with chronic low back pain. [Methods] We reviewed all relevant papers indexed in PubMed, SCOPUS, and the Cochrane Registered Trials. Eligible trials were randomized controlled trials that compared sling exercise with any type of treatment. We extracted data on muscle thickness, muscle activation, pain, and disability, and assessed the methodological quality of the data. Seven studies met our inclusion criteria. [Results] When sling exercise had an impact on activation of the trunk muscles, increasing the trunk muscle thickness, and the reduction in pain and disability had been assessed shortly after the final exercise session, it was more effective than general exercise at activating trunk muscles, but not more effective at increasing trunk muscle thickness and improving pain and disability than general exercise. [Conclusion] As sling therapy studies are based on a small number of trials, we cannot draw conclusions about the therapeutic effects of sling exercise. When segmental stabilizing exercise and individually designed programs are added to sling exercise, it increases the effectiveness of sling exercise at improving low back pain. This should be the focus of future studies.
2014 by the Society of Physical Therapy Science