[en] trunk muscles ; low back pain ; isometric strength test ; device reliability
[en] The purpose of this study was to investigate the inter-session, inter-tester and inter-site reproducibility of trunk muscle strength scores in flexion, extension, lateral flexion and rotation. Ten healthy students were tested on four apparatus with a 7-10 day break between sessions. The first two sessions were identical while the other two differed either by the tester or by the site. Furthermore, 10 patients with chronic low back dysfunction (CLBD) were assessed with the four apparatus, once only. For all tests, CV ranged from 3.4% to 7.6% and from 3.9% to 8.1% in the inter-session and inter-tester studies, respectively (p > 0.05 except for inter-session reproducibility of trunk flexor strength). Peak torque (PT) was more variable from site to site with a CV ranging from 4.2% to 12.7%, particularly in extension and left lateral flexion (p < 0.05). No statistically significant difference in the strength ratios (flexion/extension, right/left lateral-flexion and right/left rotation) were found between sessions or testers (4.9% < CV < 9.7%). The inter-site reproducibility of ratios was lower. Comparison between the CLBD patients and the healthy subjects with regard to PT normalized to body weight indicated significantly decreased performance for the former except for flexion and rotation scores in males. We conclude that in the case of healthy subjects, inter-session and inter-tester trunk strength measurements derived from these devices are reproducible. The low inter-site reproducibility suggests that caution should be exercised when interpreting findings originating from different sites. The lower extension strength scores in CLBD patients test lends some validity to the system. However, further studies focusing on reproducibility and validity of this system in CLBD patients are critical before any conclusion regarding their clinical viability may be drawn.