Background: The measurement of Posterior-Anterior (P-A) spinal stiffness is a common component of the physical examination of patients presenting with spinal disorders. The aim of this assessment is to provoke pain and/or to determine the degree of resistance or compliance of these structures and the associated soft-tissues to loading. This information, combined with other patient-specific history and examination findings, is integrated into the clinical reasoning process and is used to guide treatment decisions. Unfortunately, there are inter-rater reliability and standardisation issues associated with the manual performance of this type of assessment. In an attempt to remedy these issues researchers have developed mechanical devices for the measurement of spinal stiffness. The aim of this research is to investigate the comfort and safety of a novel device for measuring P-A trunk stiffness in a sample of young adults.
Methods: A sample of young adults from a general population was recruited in May 2016 from Sydney, Australia. Demographic, anthropometric and clinical variables were collected prior to participants undergoing a lumbar P-A trunk stiffness assessment involving a mechanical indentation device called the VerteTrack. The primary outcomes for the study were key feasibility items; overall assessment time, perceived comfort measured both during and after the procedure, and adverse events. Univariate ordinal logistic regression was used to identify key variables associated with a participant’s subjective report of comfort both during and after the VerteTrack assessment.
Results: Eighty four participants (35% female) with a median age of 23 years (IQR = 3) took part in the research. The mean assessment time for the Vertetrack assessment was 11.6 min (SD = 2.1). Increasing load (p < 0.001) and increasing number of days with lower back pain (p = 0.009) were associated with decreased comfort ratings during the procedure. The vast majority 63/84 (75%) of participants rated the overall assessment experience as comfortable. There were two minor, short-lived adverse events recorded leading to an adverse event rate of 2.4% (2/84).
Conclusions: The results of this study suggest that the VerteTrack device is well-tolerated and can be used safely and efficiently when measuring P-A stiffness of the lumbar trunk in young adults.
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