Trunk Dynamics Are Impaired in Ballet Dancers with Back Pain but Improve with Imagery

Trunk control is not as essential in ballet and may be compromised in dancers with a history of low back pain (LBP) by associated changes in motor control. This study sought to compare trunk mechanical properties between professional ballet dancers with and without a history of LBP. As a secondary aim it was assessed whether asking dancers to use motor imagery to respond in a “fluid” manner could change the mechanical properties of the trunk, and whether this was possible for both groups. Dancers with a history of LBP had lower damping than dancers without LBP during the standard condition (P=0.002) but had greater damping during the “fluid” condition (P0.99). Stiffness was not different between dancers with and without a history of LBP (P=0.252) but was lower during the “fluid” condition compared to the standard condition (P<0.001).

While dancers with a history of LBP have less trunk damping than those without LBP, they have the capacity to modulate the trunk's mechanical properties to match that of pain-free dancers by increasing damping with motor imagery. These observations have potential relevance for LBP recurrence and rehabilitative treatment.