The objective of this study was to assess the diagnostic accuracy of the slump test for neuropathic pain (NeP) in those with low to moderate levels of chronic low back pain (LBP), and to determine whether accuracy of the slump test improves by adding anatomical or qualitative pain descriptors. Neuropathic pain has been linked with poor outcomes, likely due to inadequate diagnosis, which precludes treatment specific for NeP. Current diagnostic approaches are time consuming or lack accuracy. A convenience sample of 21 individuals with LBP, with or without radiating leg pain, was recruited. A standardized neurosensory examination was used to determine the reference diagnosis for NeP. Afterward, the slump test was administered to all participants. Reports of pain location and quality produced during the slump test were recorded. The neurosensory examination designated 11 of the 21 participants with LBP/sciatica as having NeP. The slump test displayed high sensitivity (0.91), moderate specificity (0.70), a positive likelihood ratio of 3.03, and a negative likelihood ratio of 0.13. Adding the criterion of pain below the knee significantly increased specificity to 1.00 (positive likelihood ratio = 11.9). Pain-quality descriptors did not improve diagnostic accuracy.
The slump test was highly sensitive in identifying NeP within the study sample. Adding a pain-location criterion improved specificity. Combining the diagnostic outcomes was very effective in identifying all those without NeP and half of those with NeP. Limitations arising from the small and narrow spectrum of participants with LBP/sciatica sampled within the study prevent application of the findings to a wider population.