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Lower Spine News

Centering In on the Spine

Proprioception is our sense of position. It's an essential part of the way we control our movements. In proprioception, information from receptors in the skin, ligaments, tendons, muscles, and joints is sent to the brain and spinal cord about the location of our joints.

Position sense is part of our system of movement control. Position sense tells the body about its position. Researchers use position sense to measure proprioception. This particular study used repositioning error (described below) as a means of measuring lumbar spine stability.

Thirty patients were divided into two groups. One group of 15 adults had chronic low back pain (LBP) and a loose (unstable) spine segment in the low back. The second group of 15 adults was free of LBP. Each subject was helped into a neutral spinal sitting posture. A neutral position is defined as the mid-position between full flexion and full extension of the low back. Each patient then had to get back into this position without help. A missed attempt at getting back to the starting position is a measure of repositioning error.

The lumbar spine was generally less stable in the "neutral zone" of motion. Motor control of the spine seemd most affected here. There was a deficiency in lumbar proprioceptive awareness. And this problem was present at all spinal levels tested in this group, not just at one segment. These results agree with conclusions of other studies.

The authors think that even small errors in position sense and movement control can overload the soft tissues in the spine. When the lumbar spine can't find its own neutral position, pain can develop. When this happens, movement of the spine takes place toward the extreme ends of motion rather than in the middle. Chronic LBP develops when the spinal tissues are overloaded time and time again in these end ranges of movement.


Peter B. O'Sullivan, PhD, et al. Lumbar Repositioning Deficit in a Specific Low Back Pain Population. In Spine. May 15, 2003. Vol. 28. No. 10. Pp. 1074-1079.

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