Measurement of movements of the lumbar spine

R.Y.W. Lee

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This review is an appraisal of the current methods of measurement of lumbar spine movements. Three-dimensional measurement of the movements is technically difficult, and most clinical methods, such as the fingertips-to-floor method, the Schober (skin distraction) method and the inclinometers, are able to provide one-dimensional information only. Radiographic techniques are able to give accurate measurements of the intervertebral movements in three dimensions, but it has the inherent health risk of repeated X-ray exposure. Optoelectronic systems are increasingly popular due to the improvement in camera quality and computer capabilities, but they are rather complex and time-consuming to be suitable for routine clinical use. It appears that electromagnetic tracking system is suitable for measuring three-dimensional spinal movements in a clinical environment. It provides real-time information, and is highly accurate and reliable if adequate precautions are taken to ensure that it is not adversely affected by the presence of metals. Finally, this review describes the problems involved in the mathematical computation of anatomical angles. It is concluded that there is a need to further develop the current measurement methods and to employ new technologies to solve some of the methodological problems.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)159-164
Number of pages6
JournalPhysiotherapy Theory and Practice
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2002


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