Objective Maximal exercise testing is considered the gold standard to assess (V)over dotO(2)max. However, maximal exercise testing was previously deemed unfeasible and unsafe in chronic low back pain (CLBP) patients. Consequently, most previous studies on aerobic capacity and functioning in patients with CLBP were performed with submaximal testing protocols. A recent study demonstrated the safety, feasibility and tolerance of maximal exercise testing in patients with CLBP. Therefore, the relation between aerobic capacity and functioning should be reevaluated. This cross-sectional study aims to determine the relationship between maximal aerobic capacity and four measures of functioning: lifting capacity, work ability, pain-related disability and physical functioning in patients with CLBP.
Methods The maximal aerobic capacity of patients with CLBP was assessed with a maximal cardiopulmonary exercise test. Functioning was measured with a floor-to-waist lifting capacity test and three questionnaires: Work Ability Score, Pain Disability Index and Physical Functioning subscale of RAND-36. The associations between maximal aerobic capacity and each of the functioning measures were analysed with multiple linear regression analyses while controlling for potential confounders.
Results Data of n=74 patients with CLBP were analysed. After controlling for potential confounders, maximal aerobic capacity was moderately associated with lifting capacity (beta=0.32, p=0.006), but not with any of the other functioning measures (beta=-0.08 to 0.12, p>0.288).
Conclusion A higher level of maximal aerobic capacity is moderately associated with a higher lifting capacity, but not with self-reported work ability, pain-related disability and physical functioning.