Tomorrow's Forecast for Back Pain Is . . . UncertainForecasting weather is a more accurate science than determining if a person will have back pain in the future. Preventing back problems would be much easier if people could simply pass or fail a certain test. But it's not that easy. Even though various tests have been tried in the past, the real question is whether these tests can accurately tell if someone will end up having a back problem. Unfortunately, there hasn't been a lot of research to determine the tests' usefulness. The results are a bit, shall we say, cloudy.
These clouds of doubt loom even larger considering the new information gathered in this study. Researchers looked at back pain in people who worked in either light or moderately strenuous jobs. People were divided into two groups: those with past back pain, and those who were pain free. Subjects went through common clinical tests and tests for back mobility and strength and lower body coordination.
The results were scattered between men and women and between the two groups. Men with less back mobility ended up having problems, but only among the group who were free of pain at the start of the study. Results were just the opposite for women. Women with too much back mobility ended up seeking medical help for their back pain.
Because of the wide variations in test results, the authors question whether the information from these tests is helpful in predicting future back pain. However, the findings did support the authors' view that "persons with low functional capacity are liable to low back disorders and that those with existing disorders have an adverse outcome if their functional capacity is poor." For now, the forecast for tomorrow's back pain remains cloudy at best.
Esa-Pekka Takala, DMSc, and Eira Viikari-Juntura, DMSc. Do Functional Tests Predict Low Back Pain? In Spine. August 15, 2000. Vol. 25. No. 16. Pp. 2126-2132.
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