Lumbar instability: a dynamic approach by traction-compression radiography

Spine (Phila Pa 1976). 1987 Mar;12(2):119-29. doi: 10.1097/00007632-198703000-00007.


Translatory segmental instability was provoked by successive axial traction and compression of the lumbar spine in 117 patients with a known spondyl- or retro-olisthetic displacement. Lateral spot radiography showed an anteroposterior translatory movement of 5 mm or more in 24 of 45 patients with lytic spondylolisthesis of L5, in all of 7 patients with degenerative spondylolisthesis of L4, and in 37 of 65 patients with a retro-olisthetic displacement of L3, L4, or L5. In cases of spondyl- and retro-olisthetic instability the upper vertebra moved posteriorly during traction and anteriorly during compression. Severity of low-back pain (LBP) symptoms did not show any correlation with the degree of the maximal displacement but correlated significantly with the amount of instability both in the case of spondyl- and retro-olisthesis. Traction-compression radiography proved a simple and practical method to diagnose and measure translatory segmental instability even when conventional flexion-extension load failed to provoke any abnormal movement (eg, in the case of spondylolisthesis).

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Back Pain / diagnostic imaging
  • Back Pain / physiopathology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Intervertebral Disc Displacement / diagnostic imaging
  • Intervertebral Disc Displacement / physiopathology
  • Joint Instability / diagnostic imaging*
  • Joint Instability / physiopathology
  • Lordosis / diagnostic imaging
  • Lordosis / physiopathology
  • Lumbar Vertebrae / diagnostic imaging*
  • Lumbar Vertebrae / physiopathology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Movement
  • Posture
  • Radiography
  • Spinal Diseases / diagnostic imaging*
  • Spinal Diseases / physiopathology
  • Spondylolisthesis / diagnostic imaging
  • Spondylolisthesis / physiopathology
  • Spondylolysis / diagnostic imaging
  • Spondylolysis / physiopathology
  • Traction