Diminished Kinesthetic and Visual Motor Imagery Ability in Adults With Chronic Low Back Pain

PM R. 2019 Mar;11(3):227-235. doi: 10.1016/j.pmrj.2018.05.025. Epub 2019 Jan 15.


Background: Low back pain (LBP) is the most prevalent musculoskeletal problem among adults. It has been observed that patients with chronic pain have maladaptive neuroplastic changes and difficulty in imagination processes.

Objective: To assess the ability of patients with chronic LBP (CLBP) to generate kinesthetic and visual motor images and the time they spent on this mental task compared with asymptomatic participants.

Design: A prospective, cross-sectional study.

Setting: Primary health care center in Madrid, Spain.

Participants: A total of 200 participants were classified into 2 groups: asymptomatic participants (n = 100) and patients with CLBP (n = 100).

Methods: After consenting to participate, all recruited participants received a sociodemographic questionnaire, a set of self-report measures and completed the Revised Movement Imagery Questionnaire.

Main outcomes measurements: Visual and Kinesthetic Motor Imagery Ability using the Revised Movement Imagery Questionnaire. A mental chronometry using a stopwatch and psychosocial variables using self-reported questionnaires.

Results: Our results indicated that patients with CLBP had difficulty generating kinesthetic and visual motor images and also took a longer time to imagine them. A regression analysis indicated that in the CLBP group, the predictor variable for fear of activity and coping symptom self-efficacy was visual motor imagery (explaining 16.2% of the variance); however, the predictor variable for LBP disability and pain management self-efficacy was kinesthetic motor imagery (explaining 17.8% of the variance).

Conclusions: It appears that patients with CLBP have greater difficulty generating visual and kinesthetic motor images compared with asymptomatic participants, and they also need more time to perform these mental tasks.

Level of evidence: II.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Catastrophization / physiopathology
  • Catastrophization / psychology
  • Chronic Pain / physiopathology*
  • Chronic Pain / psychology*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Fear
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Imagination / physiology*
  • Kinesthesis / physiology*
  • Low Back Pain / physiopathology*
  • Low Back Pain / psychology*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Prospective Studies
  • Psychometrics
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology
  • Self Efficacy
  • Spain
  • Surveys and Questionnaires