The patient adopts the prone lying position with the arms alongside the trunk and the head turned to one side. In this position the lumbar spine falls automatically into some degree of lordosis.

Fig. Lying prone.


In derangement with some degree of posterior displacement of the nuclear content of the disc the adoption of procedure 1 may cause, or contribute to, the reduction of the derangement provided enough time is allowed for the fluid nucleus to alter its position anteriorly. A period of five to ten minutes of relaxed prone lying is usually sufficient. This procedure is essential and the first step to be taken in the treatment and self-treatment of derangement.


In patients with a major derangement, such as those presenting with an acute lumbar kyphosis, the natural lordosis of prone lying is unobtainable. These patients cannot tolerate the prone position unless they are lying over a few pillows, supporting their deformity in kyphosis.

In minor derangement situations the degree of posterior movement of the nucleus is relatively small. Prone lying may actually reduce the derangement without any other procedures being required in the treatment, provided sufficient time is allowed for the fluid mechanism to alter to a more anterior position. In these situations the prone position, though obtainable, may initially be painful. This does not indicate that the procedure is undesirable. The increase of pain in this position is nearly always felt centrally and is in fact desirable. If pain is produced or enhanced peripherally, the prone position must be considered harmful and should not be maintained.


A basic requirement for the self-treatment of derangement is that the prone position can be obtained and maintained. In this position the patient will commence the self-manipulative procedures, based on the extension principle.

In dysfunction there is a loss of extension movement or a reduced lordosis. In some patients with extension dysfunction the loss of movement may be enough to prevent lying prone for more than a few minutes. For these people lying prone in bed or while sunbathing has become impossible, because soft tissue shortening has reduced the available range of movement and prolonged extension stress produces pain.

The prone lying procedure by itself is not sufficient to resolve extension dysfunction. However, when adopted regularly and in conjunction with other procedures, prone lying should become painless as lengthening of shortened tissues takes place.

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The prone lying position should be obtained by all patients attending for treatment of low back pain. It has been suggested that this position can be harmful because it increases and accentuates the lumbar lordosis. This applies only in a few situations: when we have failed to correct a relevant lateral shift prior to assuming the prone lying position; when extension produces or increases the compression on the sciatic nerve root; and in those rare derangements where nuclear material has accumulated anteriorly or antero-laterally, and prone lying increases the derangement. In all other instances the prone lying position is highly beneficial.

Patients with posterior derangement should after reduction be careful when arising from the prone position to standing. Every effort must be made to maintain the restored lordosis while moving from lying to standing in order to maintain the reduction of the derangement.

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Spine Health. PROCEDURE 14 — FLEXION IN STANDING The simple toe touching exercise in standing does not need much elaboration. The patient, standing with the feet about thirty centimeters apart, bends forward sliding the hands down the front of the legs in order to have some support and to measure the degree of flexion achieved. On reaching the maximum flexion allowed by pain or range, the patient returns to the upright position. The sequence is repeated about ten times, should be performed rhythmically, and initially with caution and without vigour. It is important to ensure that in between each movement the patient returns to neutral standing. Fig. Flexion in standing. Effects: Flexion in standing differs from flexion in lying in various ways. Naturally, the gravitational and compressive forces act differently in both situations. In flexion in standing the movement takes place from above downwards, and the lower lumbar and lumbo-sacral joints are placed on full stretch only at the end of the movement. In addition, the lumbo...
TREATMENT OF SIDE GLIDING DYSFUNCTION — CORRECTION OF SECONDARY LATERAL SHIFT Having observed thousands of lumbar spines it has become clear to me that asymmetry is the ‘norm’ and symmetry is almost atypical. Therefore, when examining dysfunction patients it is important to realise that many exhibit a minor scoliosis or lateral shift, the direction of which is sometimes extremely difficult to determine. With careful observation it can be seen that the top half of the patient’s body is not correctly related to the bottom half, and the patient has shifted laterally about the lumbar area. The anomalies include a number of lateral shifts now dysfunctional in character. These lateral shifts are referred to as secondary whereas those caused by derangement are primary. Fig. Recovery of loss of side gliding, leaching the procedure of self-correction of secondary lateral shift. As discussed previously, we must determine whether the lateral shift is relevant to the present symptoms or is merely a congenital or developmental anomaly. If side gliding produces pain the...
Spine Health. PROCEDURE 4 — EXTENSION IN LYING WITH BELT FIXATION The patient’s position and the exercise are the same as in the third procedure, but now a fixating belt is placed at or just below the segments to be extended. The safety belt is the first simple external aid, used to enhance maximum extension. It does so by preventing the pelvis and lumbar spine lifting from the couch. Other methods of restraint may be used effectively, for example the body weight of a young son or daughter when exercising at home. Fig. Extension in lying with belt fixation. Effects: This procedure creates a greater and more localised passive extension stress than the previous ones. It is particularly suitable for stretching in the case of extension dysfunction, and is more often required in dysfunction than in derangement. In dysfunction some pain will be experienced in the small of the back while exercising, because contracted tissues are being stretched. In derangement the rules pertaining to the centralisation phenomenon must be observed, and the proce...
Spine Health. PROCEDURE 9 — ROTATION MOBILISATION IN EXTENSION The position of patient and therapist is the same as for procedure 7. By modifying the technique of extension mobilisation so that the pressure is applied first to the transverse process on the one side and then on the other side of the appropriate segment a rocking effect is obtained. Each time the vertebra is rotated away from the side to which the pressure is applied — for example, pressure on the right transverse process of the fourth lumbar vertebra causes left rotation of the same vertebra. The technique should be repeated about ten times on the involved segment and, if indicated, adjacent segments should be treated as well. Fig. Rotation mobilisation in extension. Effects: Also here the external force applied by the therapist enhances the effects on derangement and dysfunction as described for the previous extension procedures. The reasons for adding therapist-technique are the same as for procedure 7. In general, unilateral techniques are likely to effect unilateral...
TREATMENT OF EXTENSION DYSFUNCTION By far the most common form of ⚡ dysfunction ⚡ is that involving loss of extension. Having already explained and taught the postural requirements, we must now instruct the patient in the methods required to regain lost extension. We must explain to him the reasons for the need to recover the extension movement. The patient must realise that without an adequate range of extension it is not possible to sit with a lordosis, even when a lumbar support is used. For some patients it is imperative that the range of extension be improved, otherwise they will be unable to sit correctly. It is my experience that, following adequate explanation, patients will co-operate with the treatment and work hard at their recovery. They will perform exercises that cause discomfort or even pain, as long as they understand the reasons for doing so. Fig. Recovery of loss of extension, using the procedure of extension in lying. Exercises In order to systematically stretch the lumbar spine in extension, I...