BackgroundLow back pain (LBP) is one of the most common musculoskeletal disorders, causing significant personal and social burden. Current research is focused on the processes of the central nervous system (particularly the sensorimotor system) and body perception, with a view to developing new and more efficient ways to treat chronic low back pain (CLBP). Several clinical tests have been suggested that might have the ability to detect alterations in the sensorimotor system. These include back-photo assessment (BPA), two-point discrimination (TPD), and the movement control tests (MCT).The aim of this study was to determine whether the simple clinical tests of BPA, TPD or MCT are able to discriminate between nonspecific CLBP subjects with altered body perception and healthy controls.MethodsA cross-sectional study was conducted. At one point in time, 30 subjects with CLBP and 30 healthy controls were investigated through using BPA, TPD and MCT on the lower back. Correlations among the main covariates and odds ratios for group differences were calculated.ResultsMCT showed an odds ratio for the presence of CLBP of 1.92, with a statistically significant p-value (0.049) and 95%CI. The TPD and BPA tests were unable to determine significant differences between the groups.ConclusionsOf the three tests investigated, MCT was found to be the only suitable assessment to discriminate between nonspecific CLBP subjects and healthy controls. The MCT can be recommended as a simple clinical tool to detect alterations in the sensorimotor system of nonspecific CLBP subjects. This could facilitate the development of tailored management strategies for this challenging LBP subgroup. However, further research is necessary to elucidate the potential of all the tests to detect alterations in the sensorimotor system of CLBP subjects.Trial registrationNo trial registration was needed as the study contains no intervention. The study was approved by the Swiss Ethics Commission of Northwest and Central Switzerland (EKNZ) reference number 2015–243.