A comparison of methods for measuring trunk list: A simple plumbline is the best

Ian P. McLean, Maureen G. C. Gillan, Jennifer C. Ross, Richard M. Aspden, Richard W. Porter

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

39 Citations (Scopus)


Study Design. Trunk list was measured using three different techniques to compare accuracy, precision, and ease of use.

Objective. To obtain a reproducible technique for further studies of the nature, cause, and clinical relevance of trunk list.

Summary of Background Data. Gravity-induced trunk list is a clinical sign that is frequently observed in patients with low back pain and has been associated with intervertebral disc lesions.

Methods. Patients with trunk list participated in a comparison of three techniques to determine list magnitude and direction. Paired measurements of trunk list were obtained from each patient using three techniques: a plumbline, a projected shadow, and the 3SPACE Isotrak (McDonnell Douglas Electronics Company, Colchester, VT). In addition, intra- and interobserver reliability of list measurement was assessed by comparison of paired measurements by each of two observers.

Results. List measurements assessed by the plumbline and the projected shadow techniques were not significantly different, but the Isotrak produced data that differed significantly (P < 0.05) from both of these techniques. Comparison of intra- and interobserver repeatability of list measurement using the plumbline technique indicated no significant difference between repeated measures by each observer or between two observers.

Conclusions. A plumbline is the most useful instrument for measuring static trunk list, but its limitations and the need for standardization of measurement technique must be recognized.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1667-1670
Number of pages4
Issue number14
Publication statusPublished - 15 Jul 1996


  • intervertebral disc
  • low back pain
  • lumbosacral list
  • observer variation
  • back-pain
  • reliability


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