The effect of surface instability on the differential activation of muscle activity in low back pain patients as compared to healthy individuals: A systematic review of the literature and meta-analysis

Fatemeh Ehsani, Amir Massoud Arab, Shapour Jaberzadeh

Research output: Contribution to journalReview ArticleResearchpeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


BACKGROUND: Dynamic tasks over unstable surfaces are commonly done in daily activities. OBJECTIVE: A number of studies indicated positive effect of doing postural tasks over unstable surface on trunk muscle activities in patients with low back pain (LBP), while the others reported opposite effects. Due to lack of consensus in the findings in this area of research, we aimed to systematically review studies, which investigated the effect of surface instability on trunk muscle activity in patients with LBP as compared to healthy individuals. METHIDS: A literature search was performed using the PubMed, Science Direct, OVID, CINAHL, PEDro, Cochrane, Scopus and MEDLINE databases. Low back pain, unstable surface, posture or stability and trunk muscle activity were applied as keywords. The methodological quality was examined using valid assessment tools. RESULTS: The activity of superficial trunk muscles is impaired in patients with LBP during dynamic tasks over unstable surfaces. Differences in the methodology of included studies could be considered as reasons behind the inconsistencies in the findings in included studies. These studies included investigation of superficial or deep muscles, the timing of recorded muscle activity, the level of surface instability and the length of time over unstable surfaces. CONCLUSION: Dynamic tasks over unstable surfaces could decrease pre-program reaction (PPR) and increase voluntary reaction (VR) of superficial trunk muscles in patients with LBP, which may reduce the ratio of deep versus superficial muscles, compared to healthy individuals.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)649-662
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Back and Musculoskeletal Rehabilitation
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2017


  • Low back pain
  • posture
  • stability
  • trunk muscle activity
  • unstable surface

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