Balance Takes a Backseat in People with Low Back PainSitting in a swaying train car. Balancing while perched on the edge of a bench. Both those situations could be somewhat hazardous for people with low back pain (LBP). LBP is related to problems with holding a steady posture while sitting or standing. LBP for some reason affects proprioception, the body's sense of where it is and how it is moving in relation to everything else.
These authors studied the way people with LBP swayed while sitting on unstable seats. They also measured muscle responsiveness when force was released while sitting in a special type of machine. The tests were run both with eyes open and with eyes closed. This is because vision helps people compensate for problems with proprioception.
The authors tested 16 people with LBP and 14 people with healthy backs. The results showed that the group with LBP had worse balance and had delayed muscle responses compared to the healthy group. The group with LBP also did significantly better with their eyes open, which supports the idea that visual cues help compensate for proprioception problems. Balance problems and muscle response delays appear to be related.
This study is unique because the tests were done while the subjects were seated. Most research has focused on people who are standing, so it is hard to tell whether the problem is coming from the low back or the legs. This study didn't determine the exact cause of the problem in the low back. But the tests used in this study seem to be a reliable way to screen for problems with posture control in the low back. This type of testing might help clinicians prevent or treat low back problems, putting patients back in the driver's seat when dealing with back pain.
Andrea Radebold, MD, et al. Impaired Postural Control of the Lumbar Spine Is Associated With Delayed Muscle Response Times in Patients With Chronic Idiopathic Low Back Pain. In Spine. April 1, 2001. Vol. 26. No. 7. Pp. 724-730.
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