Low Back Pain: The Potential
Contribution of Supraspinal
Motor Control and Proprioception, 2018

Topics: low back pain, motor control, chronic pain, proprioception, motor cortex, somatosensory cortex, muscle spindle

Authors: Michael Lukas Meier, Andrea Vrana
and Petra Schweinhardt


Motor control, which relies on constant communication between motor and sensory systems, is crucial for spine posture, stability and movement. Adaptions of motor control occur in low back pain (LBP) while different motor adaption strategies exist across individuals, probably to reduce LBP and risk of injury. However, in some individuals with LBP, adapted motor control strategies might have long-term consequences, such as increased spinal loading that has been linked with degeneration of intervertebral discs and other tissues, potentially maintaining recurrent or chronic LBP. Factors contributing to motor control adaptations in LBP have been extensively studied on the motor output side, but less attention has been paid to changes in sensory input, specifically proprioception. Furthermore, motor cortex reorganization has been linked with chronic and recurrent LBP, but underlying factors are poorly understood. Here, we review current research on behavioral and neural effects of motor control adaptions in LBP. We conclude that back pain-induced disrupted or reduced proprioceptive signaling likely plays a pivotal role in driving long-term changes in the top-down control of the motor system via motor and sensory cortical reorganization. In the outlook of this review, we explore whether motor control adaptations are also important for other (musculoskeletal) pain conditions.

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