J Man Manip Ther. 2022 Jun 23:1-7. doi: 10.1080/10669817.2022.2092822. Online ahead of print.
INTRODUCTION: Current evidence supports the inclusion of directional preference exercises for a subgroup of patients with low back (LBP) and leg pain. Recent pain neuroscience strategies have suggested that cortical restructuring associated with movement activating the body map representation in the brain might account for the observed improvement with the directional preference approach.
OBJECTIVES: To explore whether or not a motor imagery directional preference approach would result in any changes in patients with LBP and leg pain.
METHODS: A consecutive convenience sample of patients with LBP and leg pain were recruited at two outpatient physical therapy clinics. Measurements of LBP, leg pain, fear-avoidance beliefs (FABQ), pain catastrophizing (PCS), active lumbar flexion, and straight leg raise (SLR) were compared before and immediately after a virtual (motor imagery) directional preference exercise.
RESULTS: Statistically significant differences for LBP, FABQ, PCS, active lumbar flexion, and SLR were observed, but only SLR changes met or exceeded the minimally clinically important difference (MCID).
CONCLUSIONS: A brief virtual motor imagery extension treatment yielded some immediate positive shifts in patients presenting to physical therapy with LBP and leg pain. Our results indicate that randomized comparison trials are needed to determine the effect of this intervention on the short- and longer-term outcomes in patients with LBP and leg pain.