The human postural system operates on the basis of integrated information from three independent sources: vestibular, visual and somatosensory. It is conceivable that a derangement of any of these systems will influence the overall output of the postural system. The peripheral proprioceptive system or the central processing of proprioceptive information may be altered in chronic low back pain (CLBP). We therefore investigated whether patients with CLBP exhibited an altered postural control during quiet standing. Dynamic posturography was performed by 12 CLBP patients and 12 age-matched controls. Subject's task was to stand quietly on a computer-controlled movable platform under six sensory conditions that altered the available visual and proprioceptive information. While the control of balance was comparable between the two groups across stabilized support surface conditions (1-3), CLBP patients oscillated much more than controls in the anterior-posterior (AP) direction in platform sway-referenced conditions (4-6). Control experiments ruled out that increased sway was due to pain interference. In CLBP patients, postural stability under challenging conditions is maintained by an increased sway in AP direction. This change in postural strategy may underlie a dysfunction of the peripheral proprioceptive system or the central integration of proprioceptive information.
Copyright 2005 Elsevier B.V.