Decreased variability in postural control strategies in young people with non-specific low back pain is associated with altered proprioceptive reweighting

Abstract

Optimal postural control is an essential capacity in daily life and can be highly variable. The purpose of this study was to investigate if young people have the ability to choose the optimal postural control strategy according to the postural condition and to investigate if non-specific low back pain (NSLBP) influences the variability in proprioceptive postural control strategies. Young individuals with NSLBP (n = 106) and healthy controls (n = 50) were tested on a force plate in different postural conditions (i.e., sitting, stable support standing and unstable support standing). The role of proprioception in postural control was directly examined by means of muscle vibration on triceps surae and lumbar multifidus muscles. Root mean square and mean displacements of the center of pressure were recorded during the different trials. To appraise the proprioceptive postural control strategy, the relative proprioceptive weighting (RPW, ratio of ankle muscles proprioceptive inputs vs. back muscles proprioceptive inputs) was calculated. Postural robustness was significantly less in individuals with NSLBP during the more complex postural conditions (p < 0.05). Significantly higher RPW values were observed in the NSLBP group in all postural conditions (p < 0.05), suggesting less ability to rely on back muscle proprioceptive inputs for postural control. Therefore, healthy controls seem to have the ability to choose a more optimal postural control strategy according to the postural condition. In contrast, young people with NSLBP showed a reduced capacity to switch to a more multi-segmental postural control strategy during complex postural conditions, which leads to decreased postural robustness.

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Correspondence to Kurt Claeys.

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Communicated by Fausto Baldissera.

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Claeys, K., Brumagne, S., Dankaerts, W. et al. Decreased variability in postural control strategies in young people with non-specific low back pain is associated with altered proprioceptive reweighting. Eur J Appl Physiol 111, 115–123 (2011). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00421-010-1637-x

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Keywords

  • Postural control
  • Multi-segmental strategy
  • Ankle strategy
  • Sensory reweighting
  • Variability
  • Low back pain