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Hoffmann, R. A wiki for the life sciences where authorship matters. Nature Genetics (2008)

The Burns' test in low back pain: correlation with the hysterical personality.

Twenty-five postoperative lumbar laminectomy and diskectomy patients were administered the MMPI and evaluated by physical examination which included the Burns' Bench Test. In this test the patient is asked to kneel on a bench with knees and hips flexed and place his fingers on the floor. The kneeling position relieves stress on the low back and tension on the siatic nerve, so that patients with organic causes of low back pain are able to perform the test. Conversely, inability to perform the test is indicative of functional symptoms as in hysteria. All patients were males and the average age was 54. The average interval from surgery was 2 1/2 years. Sixty-seven per cent of those patients unable to perform the Burns' test were classified as hysterical on the basis of the MMPI, while 73% of patients classified as hysterical using the MMPI criteria failed to perform the Burns' test. The correlation between the Burns' test and hysteria as determined by the MMPI was 0.48. In terms of sensitivity and specificity, the sensitivity of the Burn's test in distinguishing patients with an hysterical MMPI was 73%. The specificity for normal subjects was 71%. The Burns' test is a useful clinical test for differentiating between organic and non-organic causes of low back pain. However, the test by itself should not be construed as an unequivocal measure of hysteria as defined psychologically by the MMPI. Failure to perform the test indicates a need for further psychological study.[1]


  1. The Burns' test in low back pain: correlation with the hysterical personality. Evanski, P.M., Carver, D., Nehemkis, A., Waugh, T.R. Clin. Orthop. Relat. Res. (1979) [Pubmed]
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