Comparison of facet joint degeneration in firefighters and hospital office workers
PURPOSE Low back pain is a leading cause of disability in firefighters and is related to poor muscular endurance. This study examined the impact of supervised worksite exercise on back and core muscular endurance in firefighters. DESIGN A cluster randomized controlled trial was used for this study. SETTING The study occurred in fire stations of a municipal fire department (Tampa, Florida). SUBJECTS Subjects were 96 full-duty career firefighters who were randomly assigned by fire station to exercise (n = 54) or control (n = 42) groups. INTERVENTION Exercise group participants completed a supervised exercise targeting the back and core muscles while on duty, two times per week for 24 weeks, in addition to their usual fitness regimen. Control group participants continued their usual fitness regimen. MEASURES Back and core muscular endurance was assessed with the Biering-Sorensen test and plank test, respectively. ANALYSIS Changes in back and core muscular endurance from baseline to 24 weeks were compared between groups using analysis of covariance and linear mixed effects models. RESULTS After 24 weeks, the exercise group had 12% greater (p = .021) back muscular endurance and 21% greater (p = .0006) core muscular endurance than did the control group. The exercise intervention did not disrupt operations or job performance. CONCLUSION A supervised worksite exercise program was safe and effective in improving back and core muscular endurance in firefighters, which could protect against future low back pain.