Assessments of posteroanterior (PA) spinal stiffness using mobilization apparatuses have demonstrated an increase in PA spine stiffness during voluntary contraction of the lumbar extensor muscles; yet, little work has been done to this degree in symptomatic subjects.


To use a previously validated dynamic mechanical impedance procedure to quantify changes in PA dynamic spinal stiffness at rest and during lumbar isotonic extension tasks in patients with low back pain (LBP).


Thirteen patients with LBP underwent a dynamic spinal stiffness assessment in the prone-resting position and again during lumbar extensor efforts. Stiffness assessments were obtained using a handheld impulsive mechanical device equipped with an impedance head (load cell and accelerometer). PA manipulative thrusts (approximately 150 N, <5 milliseconds) were delivered to skin overlying the L3 left and right transverse processes (TPs) and to the L3 spinous process (SP) in a predefined order (left TP, SP, right TP) while patients were at rest and again during prone-lying lumbar isotonic extension tasks. Dynamic spinal stiffness characteristics were determined from force and acceleration measurements using the apparent mass (peak force/peak acceleration, kg). Apparent mass measurements for the resting and active lumbar isotonic task trials of each patient were compared using a 2-tailed, paired t test.


A significant increase in the PA dynamic spinal stiffness was noted for thrusts over the SP (apparent mass [17.0%], P=.0004) during isotonic trunk extension tasks compared with prone resting, but no statistically significant changes in apparent mass were noted for the same measures over the TPs.


These findings add support to the significance of the trunk musculature and spinal posture in providing increased spinal stability.

J Manipulative Physiol Ther. 2004 May;27(4):229-37. [PMID:15148461]

Author information: Colloca CJ, Keller TS. Department of Kinesiology, Atizona State University, Tempe, AZ, USA.