Lumbar Flexion vs. Extension

The basic test to assess your back pain is evaluation of your symptoms during lumbar flexion vs. lumbar extension.

  • Lumbar flexion occurs when you bend your lower back forward; i.e. “rounding” it. It is can be done sitting down or standing up.  Be aware that much of the movement of bending your torso forward occurs in your hip joints so, to effectively flex your lower back you must stabilize your hip joints.  Realize that the first 20 degrees or so of bending your torso forward is happening in your hip joints.  Your lumbar spine starts to go in flexion after this 20 degree lag.
  • Lumbar extension occurs when you bend your lower back backward. It can be done lying prone on the floor, sitting, or standing.

You’ll be testing to see if either movement, done repetitively, causes a positive change immediately after you stop doing it.  The following count as positive changes:

  • Decreased intensity of pain in low back
  • More strength anywhere in your leg (knee, ankle, toe strength)
  • Less tingling in a leg, or elimination of tingling in a leg
  • Tingling sensation in your leg moves closer towards the low back (called centralization – explained later)

NEXT:  Doing the Test

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