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J Electromyogr Kinesiol. 2003 Aug;13(4):371-9.

Clinical spinal instability and low back pain.

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Biomechanics Laboratory, Department of Orthopaedics and Rehabilitation, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, CT 06510, USA.


Clinical instability is an important cause of low back pain. Although there is some controversy concerning its definition, it is most widely believed that the loss of normal pattern of spinal motion causes pain and/or neurologic dysfunction. The stabilizing system of the spine may be divided into three subsystems: (1) the spinal column; (2) the spinal muscles; and (3) the neural control unit. A large number of biomechanical studies of the spinal column have provided insight into the role of the various components of the spinal column in providing spinal stability. The neutral zone was found to be a more sensitive parameter than the range of motion in documenting the effects of mechanical destabilization of the spine caused by injury and restabilization of the spine by osteophyle formation, fusion or muscle stabilization. Clinical studies indicate that the application of an external fixator to the painful segment of the spine can significantly reduce the pain. Results of an in vitro simulation of the study found that it was most probably the decrease in the neutral zone, which was responsible for pain reduction. A hypothesis relating the neutral zone to pain has been presented. The spinal muscles provide significant stability to the spine as shown by both in vitro experiments and mathematical models. Concerning the role of neuromuscular control system, increased body sway has been found in patients with low back pain, indicating a less efficient muscle control system with decreased ability to provide the needed spinal stability.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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