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Altered breathing patterns during lumbopelvic motor control tests in chronic low back pain: a case–control study


The objective of the study was to evaluate the breathing pattern in patients with chronic non-specific low back pain (LBP) and in healthy subjects, both at rest and during motor control tests. Ten healthy subjects and ten patients with chronic LBP participated at this case–control study. The breathing pattern was evaluated at rest (standing and supine position during both relaxed breathing and deep breathing) and while performing clinical motor control tests, i.e. bent knee fall out and active straight leg raise. A blinded observer analyzed the breathing pattern of the participants using visual inspection and manual palpation. Costo-diaphragmatic breathing was considered as optimal breathing pattern. Subjects filled in visual analog scales for the assessment of pain intensity during the tests. At rest, no significant differences were found between the breathing pattern of patients and healthy subjects (P > 0.05). In contrast, significantly more altered breathing patterns were observed in chronic LBP-patients during motor control tests (P = 0.01). Changes in breathing pattern during motor control tests were not related to pain severity (P > 0.01), but were related to motor control dysfunction (P = 0.01).

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This study was financially supported by a PhD grant (‘Motor control of the lumbopelvic region in dancers and patients with low back pain’, G806) supplied by the Artesis University College of Antwerp. The authors would like to thank all the participants, physicians and physical therapists for kindly cooperating in this study. Special thanks to Cathy de Vel and Geraldine Clarke for editing the manuscript.

Conflict of interest statement

No commercial party having a direct financial interest in the results of the research supporting this article has or will confer a benefit on the authors or on any organization in which the authors are associated.

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Correspondence to Jo Nijs.

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Roussel, N., Nijs, J., Truijen, S. et al. Altered breathing patterns during lumbopelvic motor control tests in chronic low back pain: a case–control study. Eur Spine J 18, 1066–1073 (2009).

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  • Motor control impairment
  • Non-specific low back pain
  • Chronic
  • Breathing pattern