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Chiropractic Research Review

Inclinometer Invalid for Measuring Sacral Angles

Pelvic position has a direct effect on the curvature of the spine; excessive sacral inclination has been cited as a cause of low back pain (LBP), and is frequently the focus of adjustments or physical therapy.

The "gold standard" for measuring sacral inclination is radiography, which may be unjustifiable due to high costs and health risks. Measuring sacral inclination with an external inclinometer is another option, but the validity of this procedure is undetermined.

In this study, sacral inclination measurements from lateral lumbar radiographs and Cybex inclinometer readings were compared after being taken on 41 LBP patients. There were large differences between the two measures of sacral inclination; the average difference was 23.1 degrees, demonstrating that the inclinometer readings were not very similar to those taken by radiograph. Statistical regression analysis further offered low correlation between the angles measured by the two methods.

Conclusion: An electronic inclinometer was not determined to be a valid method for measuring sacral inclination in this study, possibly due to the fact that the device does not rest directly on the sacrum, but rather rests approximately two centimeters from it through soft tissues. The authors conclude that at present, the only valid measure of sacral inclination is lateral radiography; they suggest further research into alternative methods for measuring this angle.

Bierma-Zeinstra SMA, van Gool JJCM, Bernsen RMD, et al. Measuring the sacral inclination angle in clinical practice: Is there an alternative to radiographs? Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics 2001:24(8), pp. 505-508.

Chiropractic Research Review

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