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Motion Palpation of the Lumbar Spine

Motion Palpation of the Lumbar Spine

The Chiro.Org Blog


We would all like to thank Dr. Richard C. Schafer, DC, PhD, FICC for his lifetime commitment to the profession. In the future we will continue to add materials from RC’s copyrighted books for your use.

This is Chapter 5 from RC’s best-selling book:

“Motion Palpation”

These materials are provided as a service to our profession. There is no charge for individuals to copy and file these materials. However, they cannot be sold or used in any group or commercial venture without written permission from ACAPress.


Chapter 5:   The Lumbar Spine

This chapter describes the dynamic chiropractic approach to the correction of fixations of the lumbar spine and related tissues. Emphasis is on biomechanical, fixation, and therapeutic considerations. Some significant points in differential diagnosis are also described.

According to Faye, the three most common types of low back pain are:

(1) the lumbar facet syndrome,

(2) the sacroiliac syndrome, and

(3) the lumbar radicular syndrome, which may be discogenic or biomechanical in origin.

Each of these types can be acute or chronic, traumatic or nontraumatic, and have varying degrees of concomitant pathomechanics. The syndromes are named according to the level of inflammation or pain-producing structures and more than likely not the area in need of adjustments. Their typical cause may be due to:

sprain/strain,
overuse,
poor posture,
disuse,
joint dysfunction (fixation/hypermobility),
development abnormality,
degenerative changes,
or various combinations of these origins.

In addition, the possibility of viscerosomatic and somatosomatic reflexes should not be overlooked.

      Lumbar Extension

Gillet’s studies found that lumbar flexion-extension movements are similar to those of other regions of the spine but with less forward or backward gliding. Extension is, states Gillet, also a movement that takes place in two parts with the anterior interbody space opening only after backward bending has reached its limit. This opening anteriorly is, however, a smaller movement than that which occurs in other regions of the spine.

The extent of lumbar extension is primarily controlled by the tautness of the anterior longitudinal ligament, the elasticity of the posterior ligaments, and the tonicity of rectus abdominis anteriorly and the spinal extensor muscles posteriorly. See Figure 5.10. In IVD herniation posteriorly, facet inflammation,
or spondylolisthesis, pain will be increased during extension but not on flexion. This is a helpful point in differential diagnosis.

According to McKenzie, reduced lumbar extension is frequently the result of poor sitting posture and/or inadequate extension mobilization following injury in which scar tissue prevents a full range of extension.

Reduced extension

(1) causes chronic stress on the soft tissues of the posterior motion unit and an increased intradiscal pressure during sitting;

(2) restricts a fully upright posture during relaxed standing, leading to a stooped appearance in stance and gait; and

(3) produces a premature fully stretched lumbar posture when arising from a forward flexed posture.

Keep in mind that the fibers of the posterior anulus are the weakest. The anterior and lateral aspects of the anulus are almost twice as thick as the posterior aspect. The anular fibers at the posterior aspect of the disc are less numerous, narrower, and more parallel to each other than at any other portion of a disc.

If a person must work habitually in a prolonged forward flexed position, periodic lumbar extension will relieve the stress of the posterior anulus and tend to shift a loose nucleus pulposus anteriorly; ie, away from the spinal cord and IVF. Many manual laborers do this stretching maneuver instinctively.

Review the complete Chapter (including sketches and Tables)
at the
ACAPress website

2 comments to Motion Palpation of the Lumbar Spine

  • karl

    Very good read. I really appreciate Faye’s work. After ruling out “Red Flags”(sinister causes) and considering “Yellow Flags” with a low back patient I usually become pre-occupied with whether or not the lower extremity symptoms are dermatomal or non-dermatomal (referral vs. radiculopathy)patterns. I use the standard neurodynamic tests like the slump test and SLR. Centralization and peripheralization are noted during ortho test. Mechanically I do motion/static palpation. I try to make sure I don’t only take notice of hypomobility but also hyper mobility. Thanks again for the read. I enjoy low back literature.

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