European Journal of Applied Physiology

, Volume 115, Issue 11, pp 2433–2443 | Cite as

Energetics and mechanics of walking in patients with chronic low back pain and healthy matched controls

  • Yves Henchoz
  • Nicola Soldini
  • Nicolas Peyrot
  • Davide MalatestaEmail author
Original Article



Walking in patients with chronic low back pain (cLBP) is characterized by motor control adaptations as a protective strategy against further injury or pain. The purpose of this study was to compare the preferred walking speed, the biomechanical and the energetic parameters of walking at different speeds between patients with cLBP and healthy men individually matched for age, body mass and height.


Energy cost of walking was assessed with a breath-by-breath gas analyser; mechanical and spatiotemporal parameters of walking were computed using two inertial sensors equipped with a triaxial accelerometer and gyroscope and compared in 13 men with cLBP and 13 control men (CTR) during treadmill walking at standard (0.83, 1.11, 1.38, 1.67 m s−1) and preferred (PWS) speeds. Low back pain intensity (visual analogue scale, cLBP only) and perceived exertion (Borg scale) were assessed at each walking speed.


PWS was slower in cLBP [1.17 (SD = 0.13) m s−1] than in CTR group [1.33 (SD = 0.11) m s−1; P = 0.002]. No significant difference was observed between groups in mechanical work (P ≥ 0.44), spatiotemporal parameters (P ≥ 0.16) and energy cost of walking (P ≥ 0.36). At the end of the treadmill protocol, perceived exertion was significantly higher in cLBP [11.7 (SD = 2.4)] than in CTR group [9.9 (SD = 1.1); P = 0.01]. Pain intensity did not significantly increase over time (P = 0.21).


These results do not support the hypothesis of a less efficient walking pattern in patients with cLBP and imply that high walking speeds are well tolerated by patients with moderately disabling cLBP.


Biomechanics Gait Human locomotion Inverted pendulum Pain 



Body mass index


Chronic low back pain


Centre of body mass




Energy cost of walking


International physical activity questionnaire


Oswestry disability index


Optimal walking speed


Preferred walking speed


Tampa scale for kinesiophobia


Visual analogue scale

\(\dot{V}{\text{CO}}_{ 2}\)

Carbon dioxide output

\(\dot{V}{\text{O}}_{ 2}\)

Oxygen uptake


External mechanical work


Internal mechanical work


Total mechanical work



Financial compensation to participants was funded by the Service of Rheumatology. No other funding was received for this work.

Compliance with the ethical standards

Conflicts of interest

The authors have nothing to disclose.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Yves Henchoz
    • 1
  • Nicola Soldini
    • 2
  • Nicolas Peyrot
    • 3
  • Davide Malatesta
    • 2
    • 4
    Email author
  1. 1.Service of RheumatologyLausanne University HospitalLausanneSwitzerland
  2. 2.Institute of Sport Sciences of the University of Lausanne (UNIL-ISSUL)LausanneSwitzerland
  3. 3.University of La Réunion, UFR SHE, CURAPS-DIMPSLe TamponFrance
  4. 4.Department of Physiology, Faculty of Biology and MedicineUniversity of LausanneLausanneSwitzerland

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