Consistency of a lumbar movement pattern across functional activities in people with low back pain

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Limitation in function is a primary reason people with low back pain seek medical treatment. Specific lumbar movement patterns, repeated throughout the day, have been proposed to contribute to the development and course of low back pain. Varying the demands of a functional activity test may provide some insight into whether people display consistent lumbar movement patterns during functional activities. Our purpose was to examine the consistency of the lumbar movement pattern during variations of a functional activity test in people with low back pain and back-healthy people.


16 back-healthy adults and 32 people with low back pain participated. Low back pain participants were classified based on the level of self-reported functional limitations. Participants performed 5 different conditions of a functional activity test. Lumbar excursion in the early phase of movement was examined. The association between functional limitations and early phase lumbar excursion for each test condition was examined.


People with low back pain and high levels of functional limitation demonstrated a consistent pattern of greater early phase lumbar excursion across test conditions (p < 0.05). For each test condition, the amount of early phase lumbar excursion was associated with functional limitation (r = 0.28–0.62).


Our research provides preliminary evidence that people with low back pain adopt consistent movement patterns during the performance of functional activities. Our findings indicate that the lumbar spine consistently moves more readily into its available range in people with low back pain and high levels of functional limitation. How the lumbar spine moves during a functional activity may contribute to functional limitations.

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