Repeatability of Four Clinical Methods for Assessment of Lumbar Spinal Motion

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Spinal motion usually is recorded from subjective observation of the fully flexed trunk using a goniometer or the distance from the fingertips to the floor. To quantify functional improvement in the low-back pain patient, the repeatability of four clinical techniques was studied: the common fingertip-to-floor distance; the modified Schober; the two-inclinometer method, and a photometric technique. Ten normal subjects (five men, five women), ages 24 to 34 years old, were examined in full flexion, full extension, and the erect position, both standing and sitting. Repeatability was poor for the fingertip-to-floor method in all postures and for the two-inclinometer method in full flexion. Although other methods for various postures had good repeatability, the modified Schober method of determining lumbar spinal motion was the most repeatable and is recommended for a routine, noninvasive, clinical evaluation of lumbar spinal motion.

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