Study design: A clinical trial comparing a back pain group with a pain-free group.
Objectives: To investigate whether proprioceptive deficits existed in a group of individuals reporting low back pain.
Summary of background data: Little work has so far been conducted on the measurement of proprioception in the spine. Those studies that have been carried out, however, have failed to identify proprioceptive deficits in individuals with back pain. Previous work on peripheral joints has revealed that proprioception is affected with muscular or joint injury or degeneration.
Methods: Forty individuals took part in the study, 20 with back pain and 20 with no pain. Participants were required to reproduce a predetermined target position, in standing and four-point kneeling, 10 times in 30 seconds. A computer screen was used to provide visual feedback on position. A mean deviation from the target position was obtained for each individual. A measurement of left elbow position sense was conducted in five individuals from each group to establish differences in short-term motor memory between the groups.
Results: There were no differences between the subject groups in terms of short-term motor memory (P > 0.05). A two-way analysis of variance between subject groups and position to identify differences in accuracy (deviation from the target) found that there were differences between subject groups in either position (P < 0.05). There was no significant difference in accuracy between the positions used (P > 0.05).
Conclusions: Differences in proprioception do exist between individuals with back pain and those free from back pain. Further research needs to be undertaken on proprioceptive exercise programs and their effect on back pain.