Physical activity measured with accelerometer and self-rated disability in lumbar spine surgery: a prospective study

Ralph J. Mobbs*, Kevin Phan, Monish Maharaj, Prashanth J. Rao

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

69 Citations (Scopus)
9 Downloads (Pure)


Study Design Prospective observational study. Objective Patient-based subjective ratings of symptoms and function have traditionally been used to gauge the success and extent of recovery following spine surgery. The main drawback of this type of assessment is the inherent subjectivity involved in patient scoring. We aimed to objectively measure functional outcome in patients having lumbar spine surgery using quantitative physical activity measurements derived from accelerometers. Methods A prospective study of 30 patients undergoing spine surgery was conducted with subjective outcome scores (visual analog scale [VAS], Oswestry Disability Index [ODI] and Short Form 12 [SF-12]) recorded; patients were given a Fitbit accelerometer (Fitbit Inc., San Francisco, California, United States) at least 7 days in advance of surgery to record physical activity (step count, distance traveled, calories burned) per day. Following surgery, postoperative activity levels were reported at 1-, 2-, and 3-month follow-up. Results Of the 28 compliant patients who completed the full trial period, mean steps taken per day increased 58.2% (p = 0.008) and mean distance traveled per day increased 63% (p = 0.0004) at 3-month follow-up. Significant improvements were noted for mean changes in VAS back pain, VAS leg pain, ODI, and SF-12 Physical Component Summary (PCS) scores. There was no significant correlation between the improvement in steps or distance traveled per day with improvements in VAS back or leg pain, ODI, or PCS scores at follow-up. Conclusions High compliance and statistically significant improvement in physical activity were demonstrated in patients who had lumbar decompression and lumbar fusion. There was no significant correlation between improvements in subjective clinical outcome scores with changes in physical activity measurements at follow-up. Limitations of the present study include its small sample size, and the validity of objective physical activity measurements should be assessed in future larger, prospective studies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)459-464
Number of pages6
JournalGlobal Spine Journal
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2016
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Copyright 2016 Georg Thieme Verlag KG. Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.


  • accelerometer
  • Fitbit
  • fusion
  • lumbar back pain
  • lumbar stenosis
  • objective measurement
  • physical activity
  • spine surgery


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