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Chronic low back pain (cLBP) rates among younger individuals are rising. Although pain and disability are often less severe, underlying changes in trunk behavior may be responsible for recurrence. We examine the biomarker capacity of a simple Trunk Compliance Index (TCI) to distinguish individuals with and without cLBP. A random subset (n = 49) of the RELIEF RCT were matched to healthy controls for sex, age, height and weight. We measured TCI (as displacement/ weight-normalized perturbation force) using anthropometrically-matched, suddenly-applied pulling perturbations to the trunk segment, randomized across three planes of motion (antero-posterior, medio-lateral, and rotational). Mean differences between cLBP, sex and perturbation direction were assessed with repeated-measures analysis of variance. Discriminatory accuracy of TCI was assessed using Receiver Operator Characteristic (ROC) analysis. Baseline characteristics between groups were equivalent (x̅ [range]): sex (57% female / group), age (23.0 [18-45], 22.8 [18-45]), height, cm (173.0 [156.5-205], 171.3 [121.2-197], weight, kg (71.8 [44.5-116.6], 71.7 [46.8-117.5]) with cLBP associated with significantly lower TCI for 5 of 6 directions (range mean difference, - 5.35: - 1.49, range 95% CI [- 6.46: - 2.18 to - 4.35: - 0.30]. Classification via ROC showed that composite TCI had high discriminatory potential (area under curve [95% CI], 0.90 [0.84-0.96]), driven by TCI from antero-posterior perturbations (area under curve [95% CI], 0.99 [0.97-1.00]). Consistent reductions in TCI suggests global changes in trunk mechanics that may go undetected in classic clinical examination. Evaluation of TCI in younger adults with mild pain and disability may serve as a biomarker for chronicity, leading to improved preventative measures in cLBP.Trial Registration and Funding RELIEF is registered with (NCT01854892) and funded by the NIH National Center for Complementary & Integrative Health (R01AT006978).


Alexander Stamenkovic, Brian C Clark, Peter E Pidcoe, Susanne M van der Veen, Christopher R France, David W Russ, Patricia A Kinser, James S Thomas. Distinguishing chronic low back pain in young adults with mild to moderate pain and disability using trunk compliance. Scientific reports. 2021 Apr 07;11(1):7592

PMID: 33828171

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