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Low back pain, Traction, Unloading, Reliability, Validity


Background:: To date, no research has examined the reliability or predictive validity of manual unloading tests of the lumbar spine to identify potential responders to lumbar mechanical traction.

Purpose:: To determine: (1) the intra and inter-rater reliability of a manual unloading test of the lumbar spine and (2) the criterion referenced predictive validity for the manual unloading test.

Methods:: Ten volunteers with low back pain (LBP) underwent a manual unloading test to establish reliability. In a separate procedure, 30 consecutive patients with LBP (age 50·86±11·51) were assessed for pain in their most provocative standing position (visual analog scale (VAS) 49·53±25·52 mm). Patients were assessed with a manual unloading test in their most provocative position followed by a single application of intermittent mechanical traction. Post traction, pain in the provocative position was reassessed and utilized as the outcome criterion.

Results:: The test of unloading demonstrated substantial intra and inter-rater reliability K = 1·00, P = 0·002, K = 0·737, P = 0·001, respectively. There were statistically significant within group differences for pain response following traction for patients with a positive manual unloading test (PP>0·05). There were significant between group differences for proportion of responders to traction based on manual unloading response (P = 0·031), and manual unloading response demonstrated a moderate to strong relationship with traction response Phi = 0·443, P = 0·015.

Discussion and conclusion:: The manual unloading test appears to be a reliable test and has a moderate to strong correlation with pain relief that exceeds minimal clinically important difference (MCID) following traction supporting the validity of this test.

Journal Title

Journal of Manual & Manipulative Therapy





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First Department

Physical Therapy


Retrieved May 30, 2018, from