Low back complaints worse, but not more frequent in subjects with congenital lumbosacral malformations : a study on 5000 recruits

Published online: Oct 27 2012

Umut YAVUZ, A. Ilhan BAYHAN, Kubilay BENG, Kurtulus EMREM, Macit UZUN

From Metin Sabancı Baltalimanı Bone Diseases, Education and Research Hospital, Istanbul, G√ľngöre Hospital, Istanbul and Etimesgut Military Hospital, Ankara, Turkey


The authors studied the plain radiographs and medical records of 5000 military recruits, mean age 19.1 years (range : 18 to 22), screened in a Turkish Military Hospital in the period November 2008-October 2009. They focused on the incidence of congenital lumbosacral malformations, such as spina bifida occulta and transitional vertebra, trying to find a correlation with subsequent low back complaints. Only 80 out of 748 subjects (10.7%) with low back complaints had one or more malformations, versus 744 out of 4252 subjects (17.5%) without low back complaints. This pleaded against a correlation between malformations and low back disorders. Also the literature is completely divided as to this problem, which means that there is probably no correlation at all. Interestingly, the 80 subjects with low back complaints and malformation estimated their pain level at +/- 4.6 on a Visual Analog Scale for pain, while the 668 with low back complaints but without malformation estimated their pain level at only +/- 2.2 (p = 0.007). At least two other studies led to the same conclusion. This paradox might be due to the fact that congenital malformations concentrate all external stress on the adjacent levels.