The distribution of lumbar intervertebral angles in upright standing and extension is related to low back pain developed during standing

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Abstract

Background:

Lumbar lordosis measures are poorly related to clinical low back pain, however using a controlled exposure such as prolonged standing to identify pain groups may clarify this relationship. The purpose of this study was to determine the distribution of lumbar intervertebral angles in asymptomatic persons who do (pain developers) and do not (non-pain developers) develop low back pain during standing.

Methods:

Sagittal plane lumbar spine radiographs of eight pain developers and eight non-pain developers were taken in three poses: upright standing, full extension and full flexion. Measures of vertebral end plate orientations from L1 to S1 were taken in each pose to compute: intervertebral angles, contribution of each level to the total curve, total lordosis, ranges of motion, relative pose positioning within the range of motion, vertebral shape, and lumbar spine recurve. Measures were compared between pain groups and lumbar levels.

Findings:

Pain group differences in intervertebral angles and level contributions were greatest in the full extension pose, with pain developers having greater contributions from higher lumbar levels and fewer contributions from lower levels than non-pain developers. Pain group differences in intervertebral angle distributions were less pronounced in upright standing and non-existent in full flexion. No other measures differentiated pain groups.

Interpretations:

Although participants had similar gross-lumbar spine curvature characteristics, non-pain developers have more curvature at lower levels in upright standing and full extension. These differences in regional vertebral kinematics may partially be responsible for standing-induced low back pain.

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