Examination of Low Back Pain

Updated: Oct 21, 2022
  • Author: Bradley J Sandella, DO, ATC; Chief Editor: Vinod K Panchbhavi, MD, FACS, FAOA, FABOS, FAAOS  more...
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A review and analysis of data from two US national surveys in 2002 found that 26.4% of respondents reported low back pain lasting at least a whole day in the past 3 months. [1] Lower back pain causes more global disability than any other condition. [2]

A standardized clinical examination of the lumbar spine is critical in the evaluation of patients with low back pain. Progressing in an orderly fashion through the different components of the examination ensures accuracy and repeatability.

Every examination should include inspection of the spine followed by active and passive range-of-motion testing, as well as manual muscle testing at the hip and spine. Finally, special testing and palpation are used to confirm findings appreciated earlier in the examination.

See Back Pain: Find the Cause, Watch for the Comeback, a Critical Images slideshow, to help diagnose and manage this common problem.