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Reproducibility of postural control measurement during unstable sitting in low back pain patients

Ulrike Van Daele, Stefanie Huyvaert, Friso Hagman, William Duquet, Bart Van Gheluwe, Peter Vaes
BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders 2007, 8: 44
17519016

BACKGROUND: Postural control tests like standing and sitting stabilometry are widely used to evaluate neuromuscular control related to trunk balance in low back pain patients. Chronic low back pain patients have lesser postural control compared to healthy subjects. Few studies have assessed the reproducibility of the centre of pressure deviations and to our knowledge no studies have investigated the reproducibility of three-dimensional kinematics of postural control tests in a low back pain population. Therefore the aim of this study was to assess the test-retest reproducibility of a seated postural control test in low back pain patients.

METHODS: Postural control in low back pain patients was registered by a three dimensional motion analysis system combined with a force plate. Sixteen chronic low back pain patients having complaints for at least six months, were included based on specific clinical criteria. Every subject performed 4 postural control tests. Every test was repeated 4 times and lasted 40 seconds. The force plate registered the deviations of the centre of pressure. A Vicon-612-datastation, equipped with 7 infra-red M1 camera's, was used to track 13 markers attached to the torso and pelvis in order to estimate their angular displacement in the 3 cardinal planes.

RESULTS: All Intraclass Correlation Coefficients (ICC) calculated for the force plate variables did not exceed 0.73 (ranging between 0.11 and 0.73). As for the torso, ICC's of the mean flexion-extension and rotation angles ranged from 0.65 to 0.93 and of the mean lateral flexion angle from 0.50 to 0.67. For the pelvis the ICC of the mean flexion-extension angle varied between 0.66 and 0.83, the mean lateral flexion angle between 0.16 and 0.81 and the mean rotation angle between 0.40 and 0.62. Consecutive data suggest that the low test-retest reproducibility is probably due to a learning effect.

CONCLUSION: The test-retest reproducibility of these postural control tests in an unstable sitting position can globally be considered as rather moderate. In order to improve the test-retest reproducibility, a learning period may be advisable at the beginning of the test.

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