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, 102 (2), 159-69

Movement-based Subgrouping in Low Back Pain: Synergy and Divergence in Approaches


Movement-based Subgrouping in Low Back Pain: Synergy and Divergence in Approaches

N V Karayannis et al. Physiotherapy.


Background: Classification systems for low back pain (LBP) aim to guide treatment decisions. In physiotherapy, there are five classification schemes for LBP which consider responses to clinical movement examination. Little is known of the relationship between the schemes.

Objectives: To investigate overlap between subgroups of patients with LBP when classified using different movement-based classification schemes, and to consider how participants classified according to one scheme would be classified by another.

Design: Cross-sectional cohort study.

Setting: University clinical laboratory.

Participants: One hundred and two participants with LBP were recruited from university, hospital outpatient and private physiotherapy clinics, and community advertisements.

Intervention: Participants underwent a standardised examination including questions and movement tests to guide subgrouping.

Main outcome measures: Participants were allocated to a LBP subgroup using each of the five classification schemes: Mechanical Diagnosis and Treatment (MDT), Movement System Impairment (MSI), O'Sullivan Classification (OSC), Pathoanatomic Based Classification (PBC) and Treatment Based Classification (TBC).

Results: There was concordance in allocation to subgroups that consider pain relief from direction-specific repeated spinal loading in the MDT, PBC and TBC schemes. There was consistency of subgrouping between the MSI and OSC schemes, which consider pain provocation to specific movement directions. Synergies between other subgroups were more variable. Participants from one subgroup could be subdivided using another scheme.

Conclusions: There is overlap and discordance between LBP subgrouping schemes that consider movement. Where overlap is present, schemes recommend different treatment options. Where subgroups from one scheme can be subdivided using another scheme, there is potential to further guide treatment. An integrated assessment model may refine treatment targeting.

Keywords: Classification; Low back pain; Physiotherapy.

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