Differences in lumbar spine and lower extremity kinematics during a step down functional task in people with and people without low back pain

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Abstract

Background

When functional movements are impaired in people with low back pain, they may be a contributing factor to chronicity and recurrence. The purpose of the current study was to examine lumbar spine, pelvis, and lower extremity kinematics during a step down functional task between people with and without a history of low back pain.

Methods

A 3-dimensional motion capture system was used to analyze kinematics during a step down task. Total excursion of the lumbar spine, pelvis, and lower extremity segments in each plane were calculated from the start to end of the task. Separate analysis of variance tests (α = 0.05) were conducted to determine the effect of independent variables of group and plane on lumbar spine, pelvis, and lower extremity kinematics. An exploratory analysis was conducted to examine kinematic differences among movement-based low back pain subgroups.

Findings

Subjects with low back pain displayed less lumbar spine movement than controls across all three planes of movement (P-values = 0.001–0.043). This group difference was most pronounced in the sagittal plane. For the lower extremity, subjects with low back pain displayed more frontal and axial plane knee movement than controls (P-values = 0.001). There were no significant differences in kinematics among movement-based low back pain subgroups.

Interpretation

People with low back pain displayed less lumbar region movement in the sagittal plane and more off-plane knee movements than the control group during a step down task. Clinicians can use this information when assessing lumbar spine and lower extremity movement during functional tasks, with the goal of developing movement-based interventions.

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