The influence of pain distribution on walking velocity and horizontal ground reaction forces in patients with low back pain

Maureen J. Simmonds, C. Ellen Lee, Bruce R. Etnyre, G. Stephen Morris

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


Objective. The primary purpose of this paper was to evaluate the influence of pain distribution on gait characteristics in subjects with low back problems (LBP) during walking at preferred and fastest speeds. Design. Cross-sectional, observational study. Setting. Gait analysis laboratory in a health professions university. Participants. A convenience age- and gender-matched sample of 20 subjects with back pain only (BPO), 20 with referred leg pain due to back problems (LGP), and 20 pain-free individuals (CON). Methods and Measures. Subjects completed standardized self-reports on pain and disability and were videotaped as they walked at their preferred and fastest speeds along a walkway embedded with a force plate. Temporal and spatial gait characteristics were measured at the midsection of the walkway, and peak medial, lateral, anterior, and posterior components of horizontal ground reaction forces (hGRFs) were measured during the stance phase. Results. Patients with leg pain had higher levels of pain intensity and affect compared to those with back pain only (t=4.91, P<.001 and t=5.80, P<0.001, resp.) and walking had an analgesic effect in the BPO group. Gait velocity was highest in the control group followed by the BPO and LGP group and differed between groups at both walking speeds (F 2.57 =13.62, P<.001 and F 2.57 =9.09, P<.001, for preferred and fastest speed condition, resp.). When normalized against gait velocity, the LGP group generated significantly less lateral force at the fastest walking speed (P=.005) and significantly less posterior force at both walking speeds (P≤.01) compared to the control group. Conclusions. Pain intensity and distribution differentially influence gait velocity and hGRFs during gait. Those with referred leg pain tend to utilize significantly altered gait strategies that are more apparent at faster walking speeds.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number214980
JournalPain Research and Treatment
StatePublished - 2012

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine


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