Background: The capacity of postural control is a key factor related to falling in older people, particularly in older women with low back pain (LBP). Cognitive involvement in postural control increases with age. However, most scholars have not considered different difficulty levels of cognitive loads when exploring the effects of cognition on postural control in older patients with LBP. The present study is to investigate how different levels of cognitive loads modulate postural control in older women with LBP.
Methods: This was a cross-sectional study. Twenty older women with LBP were recruited into the LBP group, and 20 healthy older women without the history of LBP were recruited into the healthy control group. Balance parameters were computed to quantify postural control. All participants underwent the balance test , which required the participant to maintain stability during standing on a force platform with or without a concurrent cognitive task. The balance test included three levels of difficulties of posture tasks (eyes-open vs. eyes-closed vs. one-leg stance) and three cognitive tasks (without cognitive task vs. auditory arithmetic task vs. serial-7s arithmetic task).
Results: A repeated-measure analysis of variance (3 postural tasks × 3 congnitive tasks× 2 groups) testing the effects of the different congnitive task levels on the performance in different postural conditions.Older women with LBP had worse postural control (as reflected by larger center of pressure (COP) parameters) than control group regardless of postural or cognitive difficulties. Compared with the single task, the COP parameters of participants with LBP were larger during dual tasks, even though the difficulty level of the cognitive task was low. Larger COP parameters were shown only if the difficulty level of the cognitive task was high in control group. Correlations between sway area/sway length and the number of falls were significant in dual tasks.
Conclusion: Our findings shed light on how cognitive loads modulate postural control for older women with LBP. Compared with control group, cognitive loads showed more disturbing effects on postural control in older women with LBP, which was associated with falling.