Clinical Screening Tests for Assessing Movement Control in Non-Specific Low-Back Pain. A Systematic Review of Intra- And Inter-Observer Reliability Studies

Man Ther. 2013 Apr;18(2):103-10. doi: 10.1016/j.math.2012.08.004. Epub 2012 Sep 25.


Background: Most people experience back pain at some point during their lives. Reports suggest that core stability interventions in subjects with non-specific low-back pain may increase function, thus decreasing pain. Reliable and validated clinical tests are required for implementing adequate rehabilitation and for evaluating such interventions.

Objective: This systematic literature overview seeks to assess the risk of bias and summarise the results of articles assessing the inter-and intra-observer reliability of clinical screening tests for movement control in subjects with non-specific low-back pain.

Method: A search was conducted in electronic search engines up until October 2011. The terms 'low-back pain', 'test', 'movement control', 'motor control' and 'physical examination' were defined and used. An appraisal tool (QAREL) was used to assess the risk of bias. Results of the studies were summarised.

Results: Eight studies were included and assessed. All examined inter-observer reliability and three also examined intra-observer reliability. The grading of the studies varied from five to nine positive items out of eleven possible. Inter-observer reliability ranged between poor and very good agreement. Intra-observer reliability ranged between moderate and very good agreement.

Conclusion: Most of the tests are presented in studies conducted with a high risk of bias. Their clinical implications can therefore not be suggested. Two tests, prone knee bend and one leg stance are assessed across studies with moderate and good reliability respectively and presented in studies conducted with a lower risk of bias. Their utilisation in clinical work may be recommended.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Disability Evaluation*
  • Humans
  • Low Back Pain / diagnosis*
  • Low Back Pain / physiopathology*
  • Low Back Pain / rehabilitation
  • Pain Measurement / methods
  • Physical Examination / methods*
  • Reproducibility of Results