The ‘Why’ And ‘How’ Of Schober Test

The ‘Why’ And ‘How’ Of Schober TestSchober’s test is one of the earliest and most widely used tests to assess the extent of flexibility of the lower back of a person. Dr. Paul Schober who was a German physician was the first person to describe with exaction the methodology and probable conclusions that can be derived from this test. This description of methodology and probable conclusions was done in the year 1937. Hence the test is named after him.

There is a total of three versions and variations of the Schober Test. The first one is called OST or original Schober’s test. The second is called MST or Modified Schober’s Test. The third is called MMST or Modified Modified Schober’s Test. These modifications were invented so as to increase the scope of the probable conclusions that can be drawn using this peculiarly simple test. Gradually practitioners of physical medicine and rehabilitation have also started making use of the Schober’s test and the variations of the Schober’s test.

These tests are mostly used by rheumatologists. The process and methodology of the test are pretty simple but extremely effective in making proper and approximate assessment of the flexibility of the lower back of a person. The major determination and assessment that can be done using Schober’s test are with patients who have probability of suffering from ankylosing spondylitis.

The person suspected of having ankylosing spondylitis is asked to stand upright and look in the general straight direction. The doctor or his assistant proceeds to make a straight line corresponding to the height of the fifth lumbar vertebra of the patient. This is followed by marking similar lines. One of these lines is made five centimeters below the fifth lumbar vertebra line. The other line is made ten centimeters above the lumbar vertebra line.

This ensures that the distance between the two lines is 15 centimeters. The person on whom the Schober’s test is being done then attempts to touch his toes using his fingers. This attempt at touching his toes needs to be made without bending his knee.

The determining factor in the entire process is the increase in distance between the two lines or points as the case may be marked above and below the lumbar vertebra. If the increase exceeds or equals 5 centimeters then the doctor may safely conclude that the flexibility of the lower back is normal and ankylosing spondylitis may be ruled out.

However, if the increase in the upper most and lower most points, upon attempt to touch his toes by the patient, remain below 5 centimeters then ankylosing spondylitis is probable. This test doesn’t entirely confirm the onset of ankylosing spondylitis but rather acts as a guiding factor for the orthopedic practitioner.

This test is also of paramount importance in determination of the causes of back pain in patients showing symptoms of ankylosing spondylitis. This is because it allows the ankylosing spondylitis to be ruled out. And in case the pain persists, the doctor may direct his conclusion or reasoning towards other causes and diseases.