European Spine Journal

, Volume 19, Issue 9, pp 1527–1533 | Cite as

Perceived functional ability assessed with the spinal function sort: is it valid for European rehabilitation settings in patients with non-specific non-acute low back pain?

  • P. R. OeschEmail author
  • R. Hilfiker
  • J. P. Kool
  • S. Bachmann
  • K. B. Hagen
Original Article


The aim of this study involving 170 patients suffering from non-specific low back pain was to test the validity of the spinal function sort (SFS) in a European rehabilitation setting. The SFS, a picture-based questionnaire, assesses perceived functional ability of work tasks involving the spine. All measurements were taken by a blinded research assistant; work status was assessed with questionnaires. Our study demonstrated a high internal consistency shown by a Cronbach’s alpha of 0.98, reasonable evidence for unidimensionality, spearman correlations of >0.6 with work activities, and discriminating power for work status at 3 and 12 months by ROC curve analysis (area under curve = 0.760 (95% CI 0.689–0.822), respectively, 0.801 (95% CI 0.731–0.859). The standardised response mean within the two treatment groups was 0.18 and −0.31. As a result, we conclude that the perceived functional ability for work tasks can be validly assessed with the SFS in a European rehabilitation setting in patients with non-specific low back pain, and is predictive for future work status.


Back pain Perceived functional ability Assessment Validity Work 



The randomised controlled trial was supported by the Swiss Federal Office of Health (Grant no. 00.00437). We thank Patricia Bigger, who performed the postal follow-up measurements persistently and with admirable patience, and Ariane Knüsel for her assistance in preparing the manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • P. R. Oesch
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • R. Hilfiker
    • 3
  • J. P. Kool
    • 4
  • S. Bachmann
    • 1
    • 2
    • 5
  • K. B. Hagen
    • 6
  1. 1.Research DepartmentRehabilitation Centre ValensValensSwitzerland
  2. 2.Department of RheumatologyRehabilitation Centre ValensValensSwitzerland
  3. 3.Health and Social Work, HES-SO ValaisUniversity of Applied Sciences Western SwitzerlandSionSwitzerland
  4. 4.School of PhysiotherapyZurich University of Applied ScienceZurichSwitzerland
  5. 5.Department of Geriatrics, InselspitalBern University Hospital, University of BernBernSwitzerland
  6. 6.Institute of Health Sciences and NursingUniversity of OsloOsloNorway

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