Spinal manipulation results in immediate H-reflex changes in patients with unilateral disc herniation

Eur Spine J. 1997;6(6):398-401. doi: 10.1007/BF01834067.


The aim of this clinical investigation was to determine whether the abnormal H-reflex complex present in patients with S1 nerve root compression due to lumbosacral disc herniation is improved by single-session lumbar manipulation. Twenty-four patients with unilateral disc herniation at the L5-S1 level underwent spinal H-reflex electro-physiological evaluation. This was carried out before and after single-session lumbar manipulation in the side-lying position. Eligibility criteria for inclusion in the study were: predominant sciatica, no motor or sphincteric involvement, unilateral disc herniation at the L5-S1 level on CT or MR imaging, age between 20 and 50 years. H-reflex responses were recorded bilaterally from the gastrosoleous muscle following stimulation of tibial sensory fibers in the popliteal fossa. H-reflex amplitude in millivolts (HR-A) and H-reflex latency in milliseconds (HR-L) were measured from the spinal reflex response. Pre- and post-manipulation measurements were compared between the affected side and the healthy side. Statistical evaluation was performed by the Wilcoxon matched-pairs test (SPSS). Thirteen patients displayed abnormal H-reflex parameters prior to lumbar manipulation, indicating an S1 nerve root lesion. The mean amplitude was found to be significantly lower on the side of disc herniation than on the normal, healthy side (P = 0.0037). Following manipulation, the abnormal HR-A increased significantly on the affected side while the normal HR-A on the healthy side remained unchanged (P = 0.0045). There was a significant difference between latencies on the affected side and those on the healthy side (P = 0.003). Following manipulation there was a trend toward decreased HR-L. However, this trend did not reach statistical significance (P = 0.3877). Eight patients displayed no H-reflex abnormalities before or after manipulation. Their respective HR-A and HR-L values did not change significantly following manipulation. Three additional patients were excluded due to technical difficulties in achieving manipulation or measuring spinal reflex. These observations may lend physiological support for the clinical effects of manipulative therapy in patients with degenerative disc disease.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Chiropractic*
  • Electric Stimulation
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • H-Reflex / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Intervertebral Disc Displacement / complications
  • Intervertebral Disc Displacement / physiopathology*
  • Intervertebral Disc Displacement / therapy
  • Lumbar Vertebrae* / diagnostic imaging
  • Lumbar Vertebrae* / pathology
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Middle Aged
  • Nerve Compression Syndromes / etiology
  • Nerve Compression Syndromes / physiopathology*
  • Nerve Compression Syndromes / therapy
  • Sacrum* / diagnostic imaging
  • Sacrum* / pathology
  • Spinal Nerve Roots / physiopathology*
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed
  • Treatment Outcome