Abstract Patients with low back pain often demonstrate elevated paraspinal muscle activity compared to asymptomatic controls. This hyperactivity has been associated with a delayed rate of stature recovery following spinal loading tasks. The aim of this study was to investigate the changes in muscle activity and stature recovery in patients with chronic low back pain following an active rehabilitation programme. The body height recovery over a 40-min unloading period was assessed via stadiometry and surface electromyograms were recorded from the paraspinal muscles during standing. The measurements were repeated after patients had attended the rehabilitation programme and again at a six-month follow-up. Analysis was based on 17 patients who completed the post-treatment analysis and 12 of these who also participated in the follow-up. By the end of the six months, patients recovered significantly more height during the unloading session than at their initial visit (ES = 1.18; P < 0.01). Greater stature recovery immediately following the programme was associated with decreased pain (r = −0.55; P = 0.01). The increased height gain after six months suggests that delayed rates of recovery are not primarily caused by disc degeneration. Muscle activity did not decrease after treatment, perhaps reflecting a period of adaptation or altered patterns of motor control.