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Range of Motion of the Intact Lumbar Segment: A Multivariate Study of 42 Lumbar Spines

Daniel J. Cook, MS, Matthew S. Yeager, BS, Boyle C. Cheng, PhD

Department of Neurosurgery, Allegheny Health Network, Pittsburgh, PA



A thorough understanding of the biomechanical characteristics of the healthy human spine is critical in furthering the treatment of spinal pathology. The goal of this study was to investigate the motion of the intact lumbar spine segment as measured by range of motion (ROM), and to investigate the dependencies thereof on gender and intervertebral level.

Materials and Methods

Kinematic data was obtained for 42 human lumbar segments (L1-S1) in response to a pure-moment loading protocol in flexion extension (FE), lateral bending (LB) and axial torsion (AT). Data was obtained for 204 individual functional spinal units (91 female, 113 male). Multivariate analysis of variance was conducted to detect differences between genders and intervertebral levels in each mode of loading. Correlations between ROM and donor demographics, including height, weight, and age, were conducted.


ROM was significantly greater for females than for males in FE, LB and AT (p<0.001). ROM tended to increase down the vertebral column in FE. L3-4 FE ROM was significantly greater than L1-2 (p=0.024), and L4-5 and L5-S1 FE ROM were significantly greater than for every other level (p<0.003). LB ROM tended to be greater toward the center of the segment with L2-3, L3-4 and L4-5 ROM being significantly greater than both L1-2 (p<0.001) and L5-S1 (p=0.006, p<0.001, p=0.043, respectively). A similar trend was found for AT, however only L1-2 was significantly less than all other levels (p=0.042, p<0.001, p<0.001, and p=0.034 for L2-3, L3-4, L4-5, and L5-S1 respectively).


The significant differences in lumbar ROM between male and female spine segments and between the intervertebral levels must be taken into account in study design in order to prevent biases in outcomes. The significant differences in ROM between levels may also have critical implications in the design of spinal implants, particularly those designed to maintain or restore healthy motion.

Spine biomechanics, intact spine, range of motion, lumbar spine
Volume 9 Article 5