Experimental Pelvic Pain Impairs the Performance During the Active Straight Leg Raise Test and Causes Excessive Muscle Stabilization

Clin J Pain. 2015 Jul;31(7):642-51. doi: 10.1097/AJP.0000000000000139.


Objectives: The active straight leg raise (ASLR) test is widely used clinically to assess severity of lumbopelvic pain due to decreased stability of the sacroiliac joint (SIJ). This study aimed to bypass the influence of decreased SIJ stability on the ASLR test by investigating the effect of experimental pelvic pain and hyperalgesia on the outcome of the ASLR test.

Methods: Thirty-four healthy participants took part in this randomized crossover study. Pelvic pain was induced by injecting hypertonic saline into the long posterior sacroiliac ligament. Isotonic saline was injected on the contralateral side as control. Pain intensity was assessed on an electronic visual analogue scale. The Likert scores of difficulty performing the ASLR test and simultaneous electromyography of trunk and thigh muscles were recorded before, during, and postpain. Pressure pain thresholds were assessed bilaterally in the pelvic area and lower limb.

Results: Compared with the control condition and baseline, hypertonic saline injections caused (P<0.05): (1) higher visual analogue scale scores of the pain intensity; (2) reduced pressure pain thresholds at the injection site and lateral to S2; (3) increased difficulty in performing the ASLR rated on the Likert scale; and (4) bilateral increase in the electromyography activity of stabilizing trunk and thigh muscles during pain.

Discussion: These data demonstrate that pain and hyperalgesia in conditions unaffected by biomechanical SIJ impairments change the outcome of the ASLR test toward what is seen in clinical lumbopelvic pain. This may implicate pain-related changes in motor control strategies potentially relevant for the transition from acute into chronic pain.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Cross-Over Studies
  • Electromyography
  • Exercise Test
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Leg / physiopathology*
  • Male
  • Movement / physiology*
  • Muscle, Skeletal / physiopathology*
  • Pain Measurement
  • Pain Threshold
  • Pelvic Pain / physiopathology*
  • Pressure
  • Random Allocation
  • Sacroiliac Joint
  • Saline Solution, Hypertonic
  • Single-Blind Method
  • Torso / physiopathology*
  • Young Adult


  • Saline Solution, Hypertonic