The patient, already lying prone, places the hands (palms down) near the shoulders as for the traditional press-up exercise. He now presses the top half of his body up by straightening the arms, while the bottom half, from the pelvis down is allowed to sag with gravity. The top half of the body is then lowered and the exercise is repeated about ten times. The first two or three movements should be carried out with some caution, but once these are found to be safe the remaining extension stresses may become successively stronger until the last movement is made to the maximum possible extension range. If the first series of exercises appears beneficial, then a second series may be indicated. More vigour can be applied and a better effect will be obtained if the last two or three extension stresses are sustained for a few seconds.


It is essential to obtain the maximum elevation by the tenth excursion and once obtained the lumbar spine should be permitted to relax into the most extreme ‘sagged’ position.

Fig. Extension in lying.


This procedure is a further progression of the previous two. Instead of a sustained extension stress on the contents and surrounding structures of the lumbar segments, there is now an intermittent extension stress, having a pumping as well as a stretching effect.

This procedure is the most important and effective in the treatment of derangement as well as extension dysfunction. The very maximum degree of extension possible without external assistance, is obtained with this exercise. An increase of central low back pain at maximum elevation can be expected and should not cause any concern as it will gradually wear off. It is usually described as a strain pain and differs from the pain which has caused initial consultation. In addition to the effects on the disc and periarticular structures there are two other physiologically related phenomena that could possibly result from the performance of this exercise.


The self sealing phenomenon

Evidence gathered by Markolf and Morris suggests that a self sealing mechanism exists within the disc and appears shortly after injury. The initial injury weakens the annulus but appropriate stress applied subsequently results in restoration of near normal strength, suggesting that the disc has a remarkable recovery ability and that certain stresses may enhance rapid recovery. White and Panjabi conclude that the self sealing phenomena is mechanical in nature and is not dependent on the viscosity or softness of the disc, for the study was performed on degenerative as well as normal discs.

My question arising from this information is … Does the performance of repeated passive extension in lying cause a reversal of the posterior migration of the nucleus into the developing radial fissure? Does the movement then initiate the self sealing phenomena?


Cartilaginous repair

Following trauma articular surfaces are normally rested or immobilised to permit healing. It is well known that scar tissue is laid down under these circumstances and damaged articular cartilage is replaced with fibrous collagen. Recent investigations by Salter suggest that if passive continuous motion is applied to joints containing traumatised intra articular cartilage, the damaged cartilage is replaced by true cartilaginous cells instead of scar tissue, and further, these joints do not develop arthritic changes subsequently. The evidence has yet to be confirmed in human studies. We can now pose the question … Does the regular performance of passive extension following lumbar disc damage enhance the quality or improve the nature of the healing tissues of the posterior annulus?

The Intervertebral Disc STRUCTURE In the lumbar spine the intervertebral discs are constructed similarly to those in other parts of the vertebral column. The disc has two distinct components: the annulus fibrosus forming the retaining wall for the nucleus pulposus. The annulus fibrosus is constructed of concentric layers of collagen fibres. Each layer lies at an angle to its neighbour and the whole forms a laminated band which holds the two adjacent vertebrae together and retains the nuclear gel. The annulus is attached firmly to the vertebral end plates above and below, except posteriorly where the peripheral attachment of the annulus is not so firm. Moreover, the posterior longitudinal ligament with which the posterior annulus blends is a relatively weak structure, whereas anteriorly the annulus blends intimately with the powerful anterior longitudinal ligament. The posterior part of the annulus is the weakest part: the anterior and lateral portions are approximately twice as thick as the posterior port...
WHAT IS PAIN? Definition of Pain In dictionaries, pain (ICD-9: 780.96) is defined as a sensation of hurting or of strong discomfort in some part of the body, caused by an injury, a disease, or a functional disorder and transmitted through the nervous system. A nurse, Margo McCaffery, who worked for years with clients in pain and conducted extensive research in the field of pain, defines pain as whatever the experiencing person says it is, existing when he or she says it does. This definition is perhaps the most useful because it acknowledges the client’s complaint, recognizes the subjective nature of pain, and implicitly suggests that diverse measures may be undertaken to relieve pain. The IASP and the American Pain Society (APS) define pain as an unpleasant sensory and emotional experience arising from actual or potential tissue damage or described in terms of such damage. Again, this definition further confirms the multiple components of pain in a person’s psychological and physiological exist...
Spine Health. PROCEDURE 13 — FLEXION IN LYING The patient lies supine with the knees and hips flexed to about forty-five degrees and the feet flat on the couch. He bends the knees up towards the chest, firmly clasps the hands about them and applies overpressure to achieve maximum stress. The knees are then released and the feet placed back on the couch. The sequence is repeated about ten times. The first two or three flexion stresses are applied cautiously, but when the procedure is found to be safe the remaining pressures may become successively stronger, the last two or three being applied to the maximum possible. Fig. Flexion in lying. Effects: Flexion in lying causes a stretching of the posterior wall of the annulus, the posterior longitudinal ligament, the capsules of the facet joints, and other soft tissues. As the movement takes place from below upwards the lower lumbar and lumbo-sacral joints are placed on full stretch at the beginning of the exercise as soon as movement is initiated. Thus, the procedure is very i...
Spine Health. PROCEDURE 2 — LYING PRONE IN EXTENSION The patient, already lying prone, places the elbows under the shoulders and raises the top half of his body so that he comes to lean on elbows and forearms while pelvis and thighs remain on the couch. In this position the lumbar lordosis is automatically increased. Emphasis must be placed on allowing the low back to sag and the lordosis to increase. Fig. Lying prone in extension. Effects: Procedure 2 is a progression of procedure 1 and merely enhances its effects by increasing extension. Again, in derangement some time must be allowed to affect the contents of the disc and, if possible patients should remain in this position for five to ten minutes. In more acute patients sustained extension may not be well tolerated due to pain, and initially we must rely on the use of intermittent extension.
Spine Health. PROCEDURE 6 — EXTENSION IN STANDING The patient stands with the feet well apart and places the hands (fingers pointing backwards) in the small of the back across the belt line. He leans backwards as far as possible, using the hands as a fulcrum, and then returns to neutral standing. The exercise is repeated about ten times. As with extension in lying it is necessary to move to the very maximum to obtain the desired result. Fig. Extension in standing. Effects: Extension in standing produces similar effects on derangement and dysfunction as extension in lying, but it is less effective in the earlier treatment stages of both syndromes. Whenever extension in lying is prevented by circumstances, an extension stress can be given by extension in standing. In derangement, extension in standing is designed to reduce accumulation of nuclear material in the posterior compartment of the intervertebral joint, provided this accumulation is not gross. In the latter case extension in lying will have to be performed first. Th...