Clinical methods for quantifying body segment posture: a literature review

Disabil Rehabil. 2011;33(5):367-83. doi: 10.3109/09638288.2010.492066. Epub 2010 Jun 23.


Purpose: Clinicians commonly assess posture in persons with musculoskeletal disorders and tend to do so subjectively. Evidence-based practice requires the use of valid, reliable and sensitive tools to monitor treatment effectiveness. The purpose of this article was to determine which methods were used to assess posture quantitatively in a clinical setting and to identify psychometric properties of posture indices measured from these methods or tools.

Methods: We conducted a comprehensive literature review. Pertinent databases were used to search for articles on quantitative clinical assessment of posture. Searching keywords were related to posture and assessment, scoliosis, back pain, reliability, validity and different body segments.

Results: We identified 65 articles with angle and distance posture indices that corresponded to our search criteria. Several studies showed good intra- and inter-rater reliability for measurements taken directly on the persons (e.g., goniometer, inclinometer, flexible curve and tape measurement) or from photographs, but the validity of these measurements was not always demonstrated.

Conclusion: Taking measurements of all body angles directly on the person is a lengthy process and may affect the reliability of the measurements. Measurement of body angles from photographs may be the most accurate and rapid way to assess global posture quantitatively in a clinical setting.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anthropometry / methods*
  • Body Weights and Measures* / methods
  • Body Weights and Measures* / standards
  • Humans
  • Monitoring, Physiologic
  • Musculoskeletal Diseases / diagnosis*
  • Musculoskeletal Diseases / physiopathology
  • Musculoskeletal Diseases / therapy
  • Musculoskeletal System / diagnostic imaging
  • Musculoskeletal System / physiopathology
  • Photography / standards
  • Posture*
  • Radiography / standards
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Treatment Outcome