Background: Observing and analyzing movement quality (MQ) in patients with non-specific low back pain (NS-LBP) is important in the clinical reasoning of primary care physiotherapists and exercise therapists. However, there is no standardized form of assessment. Research question: which MQ domains are measured with which instruments, and which activities are relevant, appropriate and methodologically sound for assessing MQ in patients with NS-LBP?
Methods: The study had three phases. In phase 1 we conducted a systematic review in PubMed, CINAHL and SPORTDiscus of literature published until October 2018. The selected studies measured MQ domains with instruments that enabled us to 1) compare MQ in self-paced dynamic activities of patients with NS-LBP and healthy controls, and/or 2) determine change over time of MQ in patients with NS-LBP. In phase 2 we established relevant dynamic activities to assess in patients with NS-LBP. In phase 3 we determined appropriateness and methodological qualities of the selected instruments.
Results: Thirty cross-sectional and three pre-post-test studies were eligible. The instruments consisted of complex (n = 19) and simple (n = 7) instrumented motion analysis systems and standardized observational tests (n = 7). We identified three domains representative for MQ: range of motion (ROM), inter-segmental coordination, and whole-body movements. In these domains, patients with NS-LBP significantly differed from healthy controls, respectively 7/12, 12/13 and 13/20 studies. Moreover, ROM and whole-body movements significantly improved over time in patients with NS-LBP (3/3 studies). Based on phase 3, we concluded that none of the instruments are appropriate to assess MQ in patients with NS-LBP in primary care.
Significance: Forward bending, lifting, and walking seem the most relevant activities to evaluate in patients with NS-LBP. However, we found no suitable instruments to measure ROM, inter-segmental coordination, or whole-body movements as determinants of MQ in these activities in daily practice. We therefore recommend such an instrument be developed.