Study says that biomechanical analysis may help identify nonspecific back pain

Jul 19 2011
Sometimes, a patient with low back pain will visit several doctors, none of whom are able to pinpoint the exact cause, such as herniated disc or degenerative disc disease.

This can be a source of great frustration to individuals who are already experiencing an impaired quality of life, but the fact remains that some cases of back discomfort can indeed be classified as nonspecific lower back pain.

Muscle sprains and strains, which are most often related to occupational activities like lifting heavy loads or psychological conditions such as depression and anxiety, are some of the major contributing factors to this type of back pain.

In order to improve the diagnosis of nonspecific lower back pain, and spare patients from visiting numerous healthcare providers in hopes of having the source of their pain identified, Spanish researchers have come up with a new tool.

The team from the University of Valencia set out to develop a functional assessment model for nonspecific low back pain using kinematic - that is, movement - analysis as its basis.

They enrolled 55 individuals, a total of 39 of whom had nonspecific lower back pain, and had them perform a sit-to-stand task and lift three different types of weights while in a standing position. As the study subjects moved, the researchers exerted vertical forces and recorded the relative positions of the different parts of the participants' spines.

Subsequently, the researchers compared the results to the Oswestry Disability Index scale to verify the validity and objectivity of the study for the measurement of functional disability, and found that they were able to correctly classify the subjects' spinal health status in more than 97 percent of the cases.

The results of the study - which was published in the journal Spine - suggest that biomechanical analysis of everyday tasks is a good tool that may help healthcare professionals distinguish patients with nonspecific lower back pain from others.

According to the American Chiropractic Association, more than 30 million Americans experience back pain at any given time, and some 80 percent of them will have back pain symptoms at some point in their lives.