Chronic musculoskeletal pain does not appear to affect postural stability

A cross-sectional study from 2022 compares the postural stability when standing on two legs between people with pain in the musculoskeletal system and a control group of pain-free people.

Forty-two pain-free people in the control group and 187 patients with chronic musculoskeletal pain divided into four groups consisting of persons with chronic low back pain without leg pain, with leg pain, pain in a single place in the body or in several places in the body respectively, took part in the study.

Postural stability was assessed using 60-second standing tests, where participants stood with both legs on a force plate alternating between stable and unstable ground and eyes open and closed. How fast and how far the participants swayed around their own axis was measured. Afterwards, the participants filled in an online questionnaire about e.g., pain, demographic data, mental and physical health, and functioning.

There was no difference in how far or how fast people with or without pain swayed. When the researchers took into account the severity and duration of chronic low back pain, as well as central sensitization, fear of moving, depression, quality of life, functional impairment, and effect of pain on sleep in the analyses, there were only very weak associations with standing postural stability.

Jani Mikkonen, Ville Leinonen, Diego Kaski, Jan Hartvigsen, Hannu Luomajoki, Tuomas Selander, Olavi Airaksinen. Postural sway does not differentiate individuals with chronic low back pain, single and multisite chronic musculoskeletal pain, or pain-free controls: a cross-sectional study of 229 subjects. The Spine Journal 2022.