Validity of Commonly Used Clinical Tests to Diagnose and Screen for Spinal Pain in Adolescents: A School-Based Cohort Study in 1300 Danes Aged 11–15 Years

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The overall aim of this study was to determine the ability of 2 selected clinical tests to detect or predict neck pain, mid back pain, and low back pain in a school-based cohort of Danish 11- to 15-year-olds.


A school-based 2-year prospective cohort study was conducted. Data were collected at the age of 11 to 13 (n = 1224) and 2 years later (n = 963). Spinal pain (neck pain, mid back pain, and low back pain) was assessed by an electronic survey completed during school time, and reference standard was defined as both lifetime prevalence and frequent pain as a proxy of severity. The tests included assessments of scoliosis, hypermobility, global mobility, intersegmental mobility, end range pain, and isometric endurance of back extensors. Sensitivity, specificity, negative and positive predictive values, and odds ratios were calculated for each test individually, and area under the receiver operating characteristic curve was calculated for evaluation of all tests combined.


The sensitivity was low, and specificity was high for all tests at both baseline (age, 11-13 years) and follow-up (age, 13-15 years). When all tests were evaluated collectively in 1 model, the area under the receiver operating characteristic curve ranged from 0.60 to 0.65. None of the selected tests could predict incidence cases of neck pain, mid back pain, or low back pain.


Clinical tests commonly used in spinal screening in adolescents could not detect present spinal pain or predict future spinal pain. However, some statistically significant associations between spinal pain and tests involving a pain response from the participant were found.

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