Literature highlights the need for research on changes in lumbar movement patterns, as potential mechanisms underlying the persistence of low-back pain. Variability and local dynamic stability are frequently used to characterize movement patterns. In view of a lack of information on reliability of these measures, we determined their within- and between-session reliability in repeated seated reaching. Thirty-six participants (21 healthy, 15 LBP) executed three trials of repeated seated reaching on two days. An optical motion capture system recorded positions of cluster markers, located on the spinous processes of S1 and T8. Movement patterns were characterized by the spatial variability (meanSD) of the lumbar Euler angles: flexion-extension, lateral bending, axial rotation, temporal variability (CyclSD) and local dynamic stability (LDE). Reliability was evaluated using intraclass correlation coefficients (ICC), coefficients of variation (CV) and Bland-Altman plots. Sufficient reliability was defined as an ICC ≥ 0.5 and a CV < 20%. To determine the effect of number of repetitions on reliability, analyses were performed for the first 10, 20, 30, and 40 repetitions of each time series. MeanSD, CyclSD, and the LDE had moderate within-session reliability; meanSD: ICC = 0.60-0.73 (CV = 14-17%); CyclSD: ICC = 0.68 (CV = 17%); LDE: ICC = 0.62 (CV = 5%). Between-session reliability was somewhat lower; meanSD: ICC = 0.44-0.73 (CV = 17-19%); CyclSD: ICC = 0.45-0.56 (CV = 19-22%); LDE: ICC = 0.25-0.54 (CV = 5-6%). MeanSD, CyclSD and the LDE are sufficiently reliable to assess lumbar movement patterns in single-session experiments, and at best sufficiently reliable in multi-session experiments. Within-session, a plateau in reliability appears to be reached at 40 repetitions for meanSD (flexion-extension), meanSD (axial-rotation) and CyclSD.
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