Send to

Choose Destination
Spine (Phila Pa 1976). 2010 Oct 15;35(22):E1178-86. doi: 10.1097/BRS.0b013e3181e53334.

Poor back muscle endurance is related to pain catastrophizing in patients with chronic low back pain.

Author information

Occupational Health and Safety Research Institute Robert-Sauvé, Montreal, Quebec, Canada.



An experimental and comparative study of chronic low back pain (CLBP) patients and healthy controls.


To use a motivation-independent electromyography (EMG) based test of back muscle capacity to determine whether back muscle deconditioning is present in CLBP patients and whether it is related to pain-related psychological variables.


The verification of the deconditioning syndrome in CLBP patients might be biased by the use of performance-based measures to assess physical fitness, especially in patients having fear of injury. Also, the use of lumbar-specific measures of physical fitness, such as back muscle strength and endurance, might be more sensitive to physical deconditioning than more general assessments such as aerobic capacity.


A time-limited submaximal fatigue test was performed by 27 nonspecific CLBP subjects (14 men) who had not had any surgery, and 31 healthy controls (17 men) while surface EMG signals were collected from back muscles. Motivation-independent EMG indices, which are sensitive to muscle fatigue or to activation patterns, were then computed and entered as input into previously developed regression equations to predict endurance (PTend) and strength (PStrength). Between-group comparisons were completed with patients divided in subgroups based on a median split of pain intensity, fear of movement, or pain catastrophizing scores.


Differences between healthy and CLBP subgroups were mainly observed when patients were divided using pain catastrophizing scores (PCS). High-PCS patients showed significantly lower PTend than low-PCS patients. Various EMG indices showed comparable results to PTend. However, some of them also pointed out that the PCS-low patients were more fatigue-resistant and showed different activation patterns comparatively to healthy subjects.


These results suggest that physical deconditioning that is specific to back muscle capacity was present in a subgroup of patients while the opposite was observed in another subgroup, pain catastrophizing being related to this outcome. These findings support previous theoretical models of pain/disability.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for Wolters Kluwer
Loading ...
Support Center