Lumbar extension

Lumbar extension is a vital part of the mobility of your lower back; if you can't bend backwards, and to the side, you'll be stooped forwards long before your time.

You will often see older folk, and some not so elderly, walking as though they are stuck in a flexed position. Bending forwards as in picking something off the floor is usually painless, but extension causes immediate discomfort in the lower back and perhaps down the leg.

This may be due to Parkinson's disease, but more usually because of severe wear and tear in the facet joints in the lower back.

So, the chronic loss of extension is more common in the older person, and more usually affects the mid lower back, and the femoral nerve. That would cause pain on the side and front of the thigh, and the inner lower leg.

Of course the sciatic nerve can be affected too, and sometimes both.

There is a solution; lumbar extension exercises. However, they must be done with great circumspection and I of course would recommend that you do it under the direction of your chiropractor.

Not just because I'm trying to chisel your hard earned dollars out of your wallet, but because this action can provoke a nasty pinched nerve. Do these exercises very carefully.

Graphic of the lumbar facet joints.

Lumbar extension

The lumbar facet joints mediate lower back extension. After a serious slipped disc, the upper vertebra settles lower on its mate below; this means that the facets start to ride on one another causing degenerative change.

The secret is to exercise those facet joints gently into lumbar extension daily. Do it forcibly and you'll set up a pinched nerve and pain down your leg. Don't do it at all, and you'll end up stooped forwards, looking like an old man or woman long before your time.

The facet joints are lined with hyaline cartilage; it's bathed in synovial fluid which must be replenished daily. Movement provides the pump that drives fresh nutrients into the joint, and removes the waste  products of cartilage metabolism.

In my book and, busy on my sixty eighth orbit of the sun, this chiropractic has been around the block a good few times, a disciplined daily lower back exercise programme is vital for those suffering from chronic lower back pain. I do them myself, having had severe femoral nerve damage two years ago. I was lucky to escape the knife, thanks to excellent chiropractic care from a colleague; my daughter.

X-ray of the spine showing an anterolysthesis at three levels.

The worst that can happen is that the lower facet changes shape to such an extent that it allows the upper vertebra to slide forwards, catching the nerve root in a pincer; it is known as an anterolysthesis, and sometimes called a spondylolysthesis. All in all, it is best to keep mobilising those facet joints to keep them healthy.

In between acute episodes of lower back pain, when you will most likely need a course of chiropractic adjustments, that's the time to exercise your facets at home on a daily basis using these lumbar extension exercises.

Tomorrow I will add some photographs of the exercises.

Yes, that is me up the ladder drilling holes to hold that escutcheon plate in place around the flue. Notice how my back is in extension; it was exactly this posture that set off a severe case of femoral nerve neuropathy in a patient recently. He had no back pain, just severe anterior thigh pain and weakness of the knee. He was lucky to escape surgery with chiropractic help.

An aside: A woodstove heating system with a flue passing through the bedroom above is a wonder in any home. This is the stove downstairs in the lounge, the flue passes through the bedroom above. Magic!

We have no need of central heating in our home; this little baby warms the whole house.

Woodstove heating system.

Useful links


  1. Chiropractic Help
  2. Lower back exercises
  3. Lumbar extension



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