Analysis of motor control in patients with low back pain: A key to personalized care?

Jaap H. Van Dieën*, N. Peter Reeves, Greg Kawchuk, Linda R. Van Dillen, Paul W. Hodges

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalReview articleAcademicpeer-review

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Motor control exercise has been shown to be effective in the management of low back pain (LBP). However, the effect sizes for motor control exercise are modest, possibly because studies have used a one-size-fits-all approach, while the literature suggests that patients may differ in presence or type of motor control issues. In this commentary, we address the question of whether consideration of such variation in motor control issues might contribute to more personal¬ ized motor control exercise for patients with LBP. Such an approach is plausible, because motor control changes may play a role in persistence of pain through effects on tissue loading that may cause nociceptive afference, particularly in the case of peripheral sensitization. Subgrouping systems used in clinical practice, which comprise motor control aspects, allow reliable classification that is, in part, aligned with findings in studies on motor control in patients with LBP. Motor control issues may have heuristic value for treatment allocation, as the different presentations observed suggest different targets for motor control exercise, but this remains to be proven. Finally, clinical assessment of patients with LBP should take into account more aspects than motor control alone, including pain mechanisms, musculoskeletal health, and psychosocial factors, and may need to be embedded in a stratification approach based on prognosis to avoid undue diagnostic procedures. The authors certify that they have no affiliations with or financial involvement in any organization or entity with a direct financial interest in the subject matter or materials discussed in the article.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)380-388
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Orthopaedic and Sports Physical Therapy
Issue number6
Early online date12 Jun 2018
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2019


  • Back pain
  • Diagnostics
  • Exercise
  • Postural control
  • Subgrouping


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