Maignes Syndrome

Maigne's syndrome emanates from the spine and refers to the pelvis.

Maigne's syndrome comes from thoraco-lumbar region to the side of thigh and groin too.

Common symptoms are often confusing and overlap with many other conditions. Groin discomfort for example occurs in many diseases; you cannot simply assume that you are suffering from this upper lumbar problem.

That part between the lower spine and the midback, where you can feel the last rib, is called the thoraco-lumbar region.

This condition causes lower back and buttock ache, and often upper leg and sometimes groin discomfort.

The thoraco-lumbar junction syndrome, as it is sometimes called, has been thought to be responsible for up to forty percent of common LBP.

This percentage is subjectively based upon Dr. Maigne's personal statistical study of 500 cases and is, in my opinion, rather high but the upper lumbars are certainly often neglected as a source of referred lower back pain. 

Because Maigne's syndrome makes for a diagnostic nightmare, it is often overlooked, causing possibly years of unnecessary pain and disability. Read more from the case file found lower down.

As always, not more tests, but a thorough clinical examination is required. Is there a spinal fixation at the thoraco-lumbar junction? Are the active trigger points in the quadratus lumborum really an incidental finding?

Is the pain in the groin or lateral thigh from a femoral nerve lesion, Maigne's syndrome, hip arthritis, or something else?

Maigne's Syndrome

Back, buttock pain and the groin too, are features of Maigne's syndrome.

Buttock pain

A diagram showing Maigne's syndrome referral pattern.
Thoraco lumbar region

Dr Robert Maigne, a French orthopaedic specialist, proposed that low back pain could in fact originate from the thoraco lumbar facet joints, mediated by the superior cluneal nerves, lumbar nerve roots 1, 2 and 3, now known as Maigne's syndrome. They supply primarily the upper buttock but also sometimes the groin.

A careful examination of the sacroiliac joints, the piriformis, the hip is always in order. Pain in the buttock and groin areas can come from so many different sites. Are there perhaps signs of an inguinal hernia, testicular cancer or swollen lymph nodes?

Prostate cancer, the most common fatal malignancy of men, should always be upper mind, and not only in the older patient. Controversy reigns in medical circles concerning the best routine examination for the disease, so we at chiropractic help will stay out.

Nevertheless, prevention of all malignant tumours but particular of the not uncommon breast and prostate cancers, is vital in chiropractic practice, because of their tendency to metastasize frequently to ribs, the spine and pelvis; areas treated on a daily basis at the coalface.

The short answer is every man shall eat a tomato a day, and avocados regularly, and women must reduce animal protein; and take hormone replacement therapy only in cases of extreme necessity. 

Superior Clunial nerves

Superior cluneal nerves supply the buttock and according to some authorities there are slips that innervate the skin in the groin area.

Superior cluneal nerves are affected by Maignes syndrome.

The dermatomal distribution of the cluneal nerves and the lateral femoral cutaneous nerve, LFCN.

Superior cluneal nerve dermatome from a Maignes syndrome.

Google appears to frown on too many links, so phrases in bold, like that Maigne syndrome casefile below, need to be put into the Site Search function in the navigation bar on your left if you want more information.

Lateral Femoral Cutaneous nerve

As we shall see, a very similar syndrome originating from this region, but involving the lateral femoral cutaneous nerve, lumbar 2 and 3, a branch of the femoral nerve. The syndrome has no name, so I lump it in with maignes syndrome, though technically it's not; it causes pain and numbness on the side of the thigh and or the groin area.

More complex, this lateral femoral cutaneous nerve may be involved in a double crush syndrome where there is often a subluxation in the upper lumbar spine, and the nerve is crushed in the groin giving symptoms on the lateral thigh only. Then it's called meralgia paresthetica.

A syndrome simply means a collection of seemingly unrelated signs and symptoms. Buttock and LBP are typical of maignes syndrome, but groin pain perhaps, lateral hip and thigh numbness, an anterior thigh burning sensation may all be mimicked by this condition via the lateral femoral cutaneous nerve.

However, as I said, this is not technically Maigne's syndrome.

Other conditions often causing buttock pain and affecting this area are the piriformis syndrome, a small buttock muscle through or around which the sciatic nerve must negotiate its way to the leg.

The side of the thigh is also occupied by the iliotibial band syndrome, a long piece of tissue stretching from the tensor fascia lata muscle to the side of the knee.

Another condition is the femoro acetabular impingement syndrome which also can cause groin and side of the hip pain. It is characterised by stiffness in the joint, and may also be found in young people.

Another is hip dysplasia; mild cases are often missed causing upper thigh and groin pain.

These lead unerringly on to premature hip arthritis if not managed carefully.

These are conditions that chiropractic excels in. Well, hip arthritis in its early to moderate stages. Thereafter it is a surgeon's work.

But, it is a highly complex area also involving medical conditions like an inguinal hernia, aneurisms in one of the iliac arteries, lymph nodes, and many others. Your chiropractor will make a careful examination of the area, and may well ask for a second medical opinion.

An aside.

To adequately diagnose and treat the myriad of conditions around the low back, buttock pain, groin and thigh really requires good teamwork. Unfortunately Chiropractors are not yet considered part of this team by the majority of the Medical community - to the detriment of the patient. This is why there is a strong move in Chiropractic to vacate the Complementary Alternative Medicine (CAM) camp and join the medical community proper. This movement has its critics - they fear we could lose our identity.

Only this week I have had two new patients who have had severe disabling pain in this area for over a year. I know I can help them both, but anyway it's a relief that the medical conditions have been ruled out. But they have suffered needlessly because of the suspicion that Chiropractic is still treated with. How can I say with such confidence that I can help them? Because it's almost become bread and butter - I see these conditions on a daily basis. What is really needed is some good research.

A bit more science.

An irritated lateral femoral cutaneous nerve is first cousin of Maignes syndrome.

Lateral Femoral Cutaneous nerve  (LFCN)

The LFCN arises from the L2 and 3 lumbar plexus. It emerges from the lateral border of the psoas major muscle, not shown, which joins with the the iliacus, seen in the graphic above. The nerve then proceeds obliquely across the pelvis, toward the so called ASIS, a hard bump about 15 cm above and slightly forwards from the hip bone.

Read more about the lateral femoral cutaneous nerve and its importance in chiropractic practice.


I increasingly begin treatment of the patient with low back pain with thoraco-lumbar adjusting. The upper lumbars are often fixated explaining why the side of hip (called the trochanteric region) is so often very painful.

Commonly, sacro-iliac joint fixations may be associated with Maignes syndrome. Clinically, one is faced with a chicken and egg situation. Do the pelvic conditions cause the thoraco-lumbar fixations? Or do the thoraco-lumbar fixations/ subluxations cause the sacro-iliac syndromes and lumbar pain? Mostly, your chiropractor will pay careful attention to all areas of the lower spine and pelvis.

The real cause may also be a short leg. Read more about Leg Length Inequality ...

Do you want more information about your back? Spine Universe.

Lumbar and buttock pain coming from the thoraco-lumbar region, Maignes Syndrome, is a notoriously difficult region to adjust. Thus you should be patient with your doctor. You may not immediately hear loud clicks, and dramatic relief of pain.

Common chiropractic adjustment techniques for this low back pain may include a straight straight down adjustment (whilst lying on your tum) which can be very painful, a hyper-extension technique (sitting or standing), a lumbar roll, McManis traction, an activator technique, Thompson drop and others.

An excellent article by Dr Marc Heller, DC on the Chiropractic management of Maigne's syndrome can be found at :

Do you enjoy light reading? Chiropractor Bernard Preston writes excellent books about chiropractic and life. Described as "Gems, both funny and healthful, from the life and work of a Chiropractor" you will love these Chiropractic books. BERNARD PRESTON homepage.

Stones in my Clog is the third chiropractic book by Barrie Lewis, telling of an amusing case of Maignes syndrome.

Another less commonly known technique in the treatment of Maignes syndrome is the supine hyperextension techique. Using a standard adjusting table, the pelvic section is raised to perhaps 45 degrees. The patients sits on the pelvic section with his hands behind his neck. The doctor places his hand behind the back at the fixated segment, flexes the torso slightly, and then makes the corrective adjustment in an anterior to posterior direction.

Active trigger points will often be found in the Quadratus lumborum muscles, the TFL, the Gluteal muscles adding to the low back pain, and will be addressed by a variety of techniques.

Hip hike, and pelvic tilt exercises (especially with the hands under the involved segments) are useful, as would alternating ice and heat treatment help with the lumbar pain.

  • Specific Maignes Syndrome Exercises ...


'Doctor, I have a pain here on the side of my buttock. I've been to my doctor, two physios, and another Chiropractor. I am despairing. It's getting worse. It keeps waking me throughout the night.'

'We had better start with a good examination, Mrs P. Would you slip your down to your underwear, please.'

The examination was unremarkable in many respects. All the neurological and orthopaedic tests were negative. The previous practitioners had successfully treated the lumbar spine and the pelvis. But the pain remained. A raw, gnawing pain. X-rays didn't show much of interest, but indeed a moderate curve with the apex at the thoraco lumbar junction, where we found a massive fixation. It was solid as concrete. I don't diagnose it as Maignes Syndrome until the buttock pain has been successfully cleared by the thoraco-lumbar adjustment.

Early in my career, I had the good fortune, to walk past an elderly chiropractor giving a colleague an adjustment at a chiropractic congress. I had never seen the technique before. Or since, for that matter, but I use it every day. I call it the FIST EXTENSION, simply because I know of no other name.

I've only cracked four ribs in nearly thirty years in practice. One of them was using this technique! But it's fixed hundreds of Maigne's syndrome sufferers. Fortunately, a large bouquet of flowers, and a humble letter of apology saved my bacon. I suppose in America I would have had the pants sued off me, and those hundreds of people would still be suffering because I would be too afraid to use FIST EXTENSION again!

The cost of low back pain is becoming a massive burden to society, not least of which because the enormous insurance premiums doctors have to pay. If this little understood Maignes syndrome makes up 40% of low back pain ...then no wonder we are making little progress. (personally I think 40% is over the top. That was Dr Maigne's opinion). Once you start to factor in lost time at work... If you are interested, read on about the economic burden of LOW BACK PAIN ...

Smoking and low back pain

Uncomfortable though the thought may be, if you are a smoker you WILL suffer from more low back pain, quite apart from the cancers associated with smoking. Strong research reveals that the lumbar arteries become furred in smokers reducing blood flow to the spine, and a strong correlation between smoking and lower back pain.

Worse, you are likely to respond poorly to both chiropractic and surgical treatment for lower back pain. Low back pain and smoking is the greatest risk factor.


Google appears to frown on too many links, so phrases in bold, like that above, need to be put into the Site Search function in the navigation bar on your left if you want more information.

Changing Chiropractors

This is quite an emotive subject; every doctor of any ilk is likely to be upset on hearing that you have left or greener pastures on the other side of the hill. Yet, it shouldn't be so; every chiropractor has his strengths and his weaknesses too.

You're likely to find there are chiropractors, and certainly medical doctors, who have never heard of Maignes's syndrome. I hadn't for the first twenty years of practice.

It's easiest if there are several doctors in the practice; awkward perhaps but if you know you aren't getting better, it's best to discuss with him or her, could you consult a colleague for an evaluation. Chiropractors should have a thick skin and small egos. If they haven't, well that's their problem, not yours.

So, if changing chiropractors seems sensible to you, do not hesitate.

» Maigne's syndrome

Have A Question about your lower back?


I receive many questions about Chiropractic. It might be help with a spinal condition, but it might also be from a person who can't walk after a hip operation, or some such thing.

I will do that by answering your questions personally, but it will be converted to a Web Page so others can benefit from your questions. Omit your name if you like.

However, do understand that, in the main, I'm going to be directing you, should it be pertinent, to a Chiropractor in your neck of the woods. I'll respond to all reasonable inquiries, but please be specific, and give as much detail as you can.

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Pose Me A Question! Pretty please, in decent grammar and spelling.

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Do understand that lower back pain is extremely complex, so I can only give general guidelines. There's no substitute for a careful thorough chiropractic examination.

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Interesting challenges of the day

1. Mr S is a 76 year old man with neck pain of some 9 months duration. Luckily, most of the discomfort is upper cervical which is only rarely arthritic; his lower cervical spine is a degenerative mess that I've left alone. After seven treatments his pain and stiffness is 50 percent better, and he's happy in the circumstances. He can sleep through the night now and that makes a huge difference.

2. Mr P is 32 year old man with very severe lower back pain radiating to the big toe which is 30 percent numb. He had an episode three weeks ago, took anti inflammatories and was soon better as is typical of the medial disc herniation. But before it healed, after a trivia it came roaring back, much worse. The characteristic crossed sign was evident; sitting in a chair, straightening the right leg provoked severe left back pain and tingling in the leg. He's doing well.

3. Severe lower back pain is scary; just ask Mrs P. Just watching her get out of the car I she was in trouble; she had a slipped disc at L4 making her lean towards the opposite side; luckily she had no pain in the leg. Despite family pressure that this was far too severe for a chiropractor, she persevered. Within five days she was standing upright, and after two weeks almost painfree. 

Despite a hectic job, she wisely took my advice and stayed home for what I call exercising bed rest.

4. Mr S has had lower back, groin and back of thigh and calf pain for fourth months.

He has a pincer deformity in the hip causing the stabs in the groin, and a degenerative facet causing the sciatica. Both are responding well to chiropractic and he's well pleased; sixty five percent better after three treatments.

5. Mr T is a wise man; he's taken a warning TIA seriously and has lost 15 pounds, and has at least as much again to lose. A change to a low starch diet and half hour daily walk has made the difference; but the walking is making his foot and back miserable. The expensive orthotic is hopeless; luckily his hips and back are fine, but he needs a simple heel lift.

6. I too have had serious lower back issues, luckily fixed by my own chiropractor; so I too have to do my exercises, take care when lifting supers full of honey, gardening and using the chainsaw. Regaining the function of your spine is just as important as the pain.

7. My own granddaughter, only 7 is hypermobile giving her pelvic, knee and ankle issues. Xrays show a mildly dysplastic hip. Years ago we would have called it growing pains. She too regularly needs chiropractic care and luckily responds well. Increased range of motion is more difficult than too stiff in my opinion. Our care is for kids too.

8. This 65 year old lady is a serious gardener; every day she is bending, lifting and digging for 2 to 3 hours a day. It regularly catches her in the sacroiliac joint, so she has a treatment once a month that sorts it out. She does her lower back exercises faithfully.

9. This 88 year old lady is an inspiration; every day she is busy in the community. With a nasty scoliosis she manages very well with a chiropractic adjustment every six weeks and exercises faithfully done.  

10. Mr X is a 71 year old retired man who wants to continue with maintenance care every six to eight weeks; he had suffered from two years of lower back pain when he first came a year ago. He has no discomfort now after 8 chiropractic treatments, but is aware that danger lurks.

11. Mrs C has been having severe headaches, and taking a lot of analgesics. It's a non complicated upper cervical facet syndrome, and she's doing well.

12. Mr D is a 38 old year man with chronic shoulder pain after a rotator cuff tear playing cricket. It responded well to treatment, but he knows he must do his exercises every day; for two years he couldn't sleep on that shoulder.

13. Mr D, a 71 year old man, has a severe ache in the shoulder and midback since working above his head. Trapped nerve tests are negative but he has advanced degenerative joints of Luschka; after just two treatments he is 50 percent better. Can we reach 90?

And so the day goes; chiropractors shouldn't be treating the elderly most medical sites state but that's so much bunkum.

Have a problem that's not getting better? Looking for a different slant on your pain? Want to pose a question?

Interesting questions from visitors

CLS writes:

Greetings, Dr B.
You helped me quite some time back with a soothing and professional response which turned out to be exactly correct. I now consult a local chiropractor. You write a superb newsletter, too.

Your own unresolved problem. Pose a question

Knowing that up to 70% of the time the correct diagnosis is made with no examination, no special tests, no xrays, but just from the history, there's a fair chance I can add some insight to your unresolved problem. But at least 30% of the time, I may be quite wrong! Give plenty of detail if you want a sensible reply.

You visited this chiropractic help site no doubt because you have a problem that is not resolving and want to know more about what chiropractors do.

The quickest and most interesting way is to read one of my ebooks of anecdotes. Described by a reader as gems, both funny and healthful, from the life and work of a chiropractor, you'll love them. Priced right at $2.99, though Kindle fiddles the price without telling me.

Interesting readers' letters