Article Text

  1. A. N. Ngo,
  2. J. Thomas,
  3. J. T. Martin
  1. Western University of Health Sciences, College of Osteopathic Medicine, Pomona, CA


Low back pain (LBP) is one of the most common complaints by patients. However, the causes of LBP are poorly understood. The asymmetry of leg length and pelvic position have been suggested as possible causes. Fluctuating asymmetry (FA) is the summation of differences in several traits between the right and left side. People who have increased asymmetry in various bilateral traits may be at greater risk of developing chronic LBP. Ulnar, but not leg length, asymmetry is reportedly greater in a group of young Canadians with LBP compared to controls. Whether other measures of upper body asymmetry are elevated in a clinical LBP population is not clear. We hypothesized that older persons with chronic LBP would show elevated fluctuating asynmmetry in hand and arm traits. We compared the fluctuating asymmetry of control subjects (n = 130) and patients with LBP (n = 143) using six different traits: the wrist width, the hand length, the hand width, the length of the third proximal phalange, the lower arm length, and the ulnar length. FA was calculated by the following formula FA = Σ{|Ri - Li|/[.5(Ri + Li)]}/6 where R = right and L = left of the ith trait. We found no difference in FA between patients and controls. We also found that the LBP group did not have significantly higher asymmetry in ulnar length than the control group. Our results call into question the generality of earlier studies suggesting that developmental instability in the upper limbs is associated with chronic LBP.

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