People With Low Back Pain Exhibit Higher Trunk Muscle Activity and Impaired Postural Control During Static and Dynamic Functional Tasks: A Cross-Sectional Study

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Sara Salamat Behbahan Faculty of Medical Sciences, Behbahan, Iran
School of Rehabilitation, Tehran University of Medical Sciences (TUMS), Tehran, Iran

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Saeed Talebian School of Rehabilitation, Tehran University of Medical Sciences (TUMS), Tehran, Iran

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Nader Maroufi Mountainview Health and Wellness, Greater Vancouver area, BC, Canada

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Gitta Kalbassi Department of Physiotherapy, School of Rehabilitation, Isfahan University of Medical Sciences, Isfahan, Iran

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Davood Salamat Department of Mechanical Engineering, Islamic Azad University of Ahvaz, Ahvaz, Iran

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Kieran O’Sullivan School of Allied Health, University of Limerick, Limerick, Ireland
UL-CARE, Health Research Institute, University of Limerick, Limerick, Ireland

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The study compared superficial trunk muscle activity and postural control among an active extension subgroup of people with nonspecific chronic low back pain (AE-NSCLBP) with painfree controls during functional tasks. Thirty-two people (17 people with low back pain [LBP] and 15 painfree controls) participated in this study. Muscle activity of 5 trunk muscles and postural control were investigated during both standing tasks (eyes open/closed; single/double-leg balance) and dynamic functional tasks (spinal forward flexion and return, and a sit to stand transfer). Results showed that during single-leg standing, people with AE-NSCLBP exhibit higher muscle activity than painfree controls for 3 trunk muscles, especially with their eyes closed. There were no significant differences in muscle activity between eye conditions during double-leg standing and sit to stand transfer, forward flexion, and return from flexion. The AE-NSCLBP subgroup also demonstrated significantly impaired postural control (lower time to boundary) in 4 of 8 conditions, especially during single-leg standing and with their eyes closed. These findings show people with LBP typically demonstrated greater trunk muscle activity and poorer postural control while maintaining standing posture. This pattern was most evident when the postural challenge was higher, such as single-leg standing or with eyes closed. While this study design cannot infer causality, these findings have implications for LBP rehabilitation, particularly regarding approaches which seek to alter muscle activation among people with LBP.

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