What is the Impact of Exercise Programmes among Helicopter Pilots with Transient LBP?

Research Paper Title

Impact of exercise programs among helicopter pilots with transient LBP.


Flight related low back pain (LBP) among helicopter pilots is frequent and may influence flight performance. Prolonged confined sitting during flights seems to weaken lumbar trunk (LT) muscles with associated secondary transient pain. Aim of the study was to investigate if structured training could improve muscular function and thus improve LBP related to flying.


39 helicopter pilots (35 men and 4 women), who reported flying related LBP on at least 1 of 3 missions last month, were allocated to two training programmes over a 3-month period.

  • Programme A consisted of 10 exercises recommended for general LBP.
  • Programme B consisted of 4 exercises designed specifically to improve LT muscular endurance.

The pilots were examined before and after the training using questionnaires for pain, function, quality of health and tests of LT muscular endurance as well as ultrasound measurements of the contractility of the lumbar multifidus muscle (LMM).


Approximately half of the participants performed the training per-protocol. Participants in this subset group had comparable baseline characteristics as the total study sample. Pre and post analysis of all pilots included, showed participants had marked improvement in endurance and contractility of the LMM following training. Similarly, participants had improvement in function and quality of health. Participants in programme B had significant improvement in pain, function and quality of health.


This study indicates that participants who performed a three months exercise programme had improved muscle endurance at the end of the programme. The helicopter pilots also experienced improved function and quality of health.


Andersen, K., Baardsen, R., Dalen, I. & Larsen, J.P. (2017) Impact of exercise programs among helicopter pilots with transient LBP. BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders. 18: 269. Published online 2017 Jun 20. doi: 10.1186/s12891-017-1631-0.


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