Objectives: To assess whether group exercise and coping classes reduce physical and psychological impairments and functional disability in older women with prevalent vertebral fractures (VFs).
Design: Randomized, controlled trial (modified cross-over) with site as unit of assignment; testing at baseline and 3, 6, 9, and 12 months.
Setting: Nine North Carolina retirement communities.
Participants: One hundred eighty-five postmenopausal Caucasian women (mean age 81), each with at least one VFs.
Intervention: The intervention group had 6 months of exercise (3 meetings weekly, 45 minutes each) and coping classes (2 meetings weekly, 45 minutes each) in Phase 1, followed by 6 months of self-maintenance. The control group had 6 months of health education control intervention (1 meeting weekly, 45 minutes) in Phase 1, followed by the intervention described above.
Measurements: Change in trunk extension strength, change in pain with activities, and change in psychological symptoms.
Results: Between-group differences in the change in trunk extension strength (10.68 foot pounds, P<.001) and psychological symptoms (−0.08, P=.011) were significant for Phase 1. Changes in pain with activities did not differ between groups (−0.03, P=.64); there was no change in the pain endpoint. In Phase 2, controls showed significant changes in trunk strength (15.02 foot pounds, P<.001) and psychological symptoms (−0.11, P=.006) from baseline. Change in pain with activities was not significant (−0.03, P=.70). During self-maintenance, the intervention group did not worsen in psychological symptoms, but improved trunk extension strength was not maintained.
Conclusion: Weak trunk extension strength and psychological symptoms associated with VFs can be improved in older women using group treatment, and psychological improvements are retained for at least 6 months.