Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Segmental lumbar mobility in individuals with low back pain: in vivo assessment during manual and self-imposed motion using dynamic MRI

Kornelia Kulig1*, Christopher M Powers1, Robert F Landel1, Hungwen Chen1, Michael Fredericson2, Marc Guillet2 and Kim Butts3

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Biokinesiology and Physical Therapy, University of Southern California, 1540 East Alcazar St., CHP-155, Los Angeles, CA 90089, USA

2 Department of Functional Restoration, Division of Sports Medicine, Stanford University, Stanford, CA 94305, USA

3 Department of Radiology, Stanford University, Stanford, CA 94305, USA

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BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders 2007, 8:8  doi:10.1186/1471-2474-8-8

Published: 29 January 2007



Altered spinal mobility is thought to be related to current or past episodes of low back pain; however evidence of that relationship in younger subjects has not been established. The purpose of this study was to compare lumbar segmental mobility in asymptomatic and symptomatic subjects during posterior to anterior (PA) manual spinal mobilization and a self-initiated prone press-up (PU) maneuver. We hypothesized that persons with central low back pain would have an altered lumbar segmental mobility pattern compared to those without pain.


Forty-five individuals (age 32.1 ± 8.5) with non-specific low back pain and 20 persons (age 31.1 ± 7.0) without low back pain participated. Each subject underwent dynamic imaging of the lumbar spine during a PA mobilization procedure and while performing a PU. Segmental motion was quantified as the change in the intervertebral angle between the resting and end-range vertebral positions.


The symptomatic group had a larger percentage of subjects with evidence of single level segmental hypermobility than the asymptomatic group during the PA (40.0% vs. 5%) and PU (26.7% vs. 15%) procedures. Single lumbar motion-segment analysis revealed hyper-mobility in symptomatic subjects at L5 – S1 (Chi-square = 10.0, p ≤ 0.01) and L4 – L5 (Chi-square = 4.18, p ≤ 0.05) during the PA test.


Persons with non-specific low back pain have a tendency to demonstrate single level lumbar segmental hypermobility when compared to age specific asymptomatic subjects.