OBJECTIVE: A radiographic study was undertaken to describe the relationship between the magnitude of coupled lumbar motion in lateral bending and the presence of low back pain: correlation between pain and motion, relationship between motion category and motion and symmetry of lumbar motion.
SETTING: Chiropractic college student health center and private chiropractic clinic.
PARTICIPANTS: 249 subjects: 114 with low back pain, 29 asymptomatic with no history and 106 asymptomatic with history. Of these, 194 were freshman volunteers and 55 were new private clinic low back pain patients.
MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Net lumbar segmental tilt and rotation in lateral bending: corrected and uncorrected for segmental malposition with the patient standing in the upright neutral position.
RESULTS: Statistical analysis demonstrated no significant relationship between coupled lumbar motion and low back pain (p greater than .01). The presence of type II motion could account for, on average, less than 5% loss of segmental tilt in the lumbar spine. Asymmetries between left and right side motion averaged 45 to 100% of unilateral range of motion.
CONCLUSIONS: This study suggests that back pain is not an indication for the routine use of lateral bending films for the identification of alterations in the magnitude of lumbar segmental motion in lateral bending. It further indicates that type II motion cannot be ruled out as a normal variant. The paucity of symmetrical lumbar motion suggests that segmental tilt or coupled rotation asymmetry, in and of itself, should not be considered an indication for spinal manipulation.
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