Study design: A cross-sectional study in patients with recurrent/chronic low back trouble and healthy control subjects.
Objective: To evaluate the effect of paraspinal muscle fatigue on the ability to sense a change in lumbar position.
Summary of background data: Protection against spinal injury requires proper anticipation of events, appropriate sensation of body position, and reasonable muscular responses. Lumbar fatigue is known to delay lumbar muscle responses to sudden loads. It is not known whether the delay is because of failure in the sensation of position, output of the response, or both.
Methods: Altogether, 106 subjects (57 patients with low back trouble [27 men and 30 women] and 49 healthy control subjects [28 men and 21 women]) participated in the study. Their ability to sense a change in lumbar position while seated on a special trunk rotation unit was assessed. A motor rotated the seat with an angular velocity of 1 degree per second. The task in the test involved reacting to the perception of lumbar movement (rotation) by releasing a button with a finger movement. The test was performed twice, before and immediately after a fatiguing procedure. During the endurance task, the participants performed upper trunk repetitive extensions against a resistance, with a movement amplitude adjusted between 25 degrees flexion and 5 degrees extension, until exhaustion.
Results: Patients with chronic low back trouble had significantly poorer ability than control subjects on the average to sense a change in lumbar position (P = 0.007), which was noticed before and after the fatiguing procedure. Lumbar fatigue induced significant impairment in the sensation of position change (P < 0.000001).
Conclusions: Lumbar fatigue impairs the ability to sense a change in lumbar position. This feature was found in patients and control subjects, but patients with low back trouble had poorer ability to sense a change in lumbar position than control subjects even when they were not fatigued. There seems to be a period after a fatiguing task during which the available information on lumbar position and its changes is inaccurate.