Specific movements and positions that reproduce the symptoms

should be documented. The upper lumbar region (L1, L2 and l3) controls the iliopsoas muscles, which can be evaluated by testing resistance to hip flexion. While seated, the patient should attempt to raise each thigh while the physician's hands are placed on the leg to create resistance. Pain and weakness are indicative of upper lumbar nerve root involvement. The L2, L3 and L4 nerve roots control the quadriceps muscle, which can be evaluated by manually trying to flex the actively extended knee. The L4 nerve root also controls the tibialis anterior muscle, which can be tested by heel walking.

E. The L5 nerve root controls the extensor hallucis longus, which can be tested with the patient seated and moving both great toes in a dorsiflexed position against resistance. The L5 nerve root also innervates the hip abductors, which are evaluated by the Trendelenburg test. This test requires the patient to stand on one leg; the physician stands behind the patient and puts his or her hands on the patient's hips. A positive test is characterized by any drop in the pelvis on the opposite side and suggests either L5 nerve root pathology.

F. Cauda equina syndrome can be identified by unexpected laxity of the anal sphincter, perianal or perineal sensory loss, or major motor loss in the lower extremities.

G. Nerve root tension signs are evaluated with the straight-leg raising test in the supine position. The physician raises the patient's legs to 90 degrees. Normally, this position results in only minor tightness in the hamstrings. If nerve root compression is present, this test causes severe pain in the back of the affected leg and can reveal a disorder of the L5 or S1 nerve root.

H. The most common sites for a herniated lumbar disc are L4-5 and L5-S1, resulting in back pain and pain radiating down the posterior and lateral leg, to below the knee.

I. A crossed straight-leg raising test may suggest nerve root compression. In this test, straight-leg raising of the contralateral limb reproduces more specific but less intense pain on the affected side. In addition, the femoral stretch test can be used to evaluate the reproducibility of pain. The patient lies in either the prone or the lateral decubitus position, and the thigh is extended at the hip, and the knee is flexed. Reproduction of pain suggests upper nerve root (L2, L3 and L4) disorders.

J. Nonorganic physical signs (Waddell signs) may identify patients with pain of a psychologic or socioeconomic basis. These signs include superficial tenderness, positive results on simulation tests (ie, maneuvers that appear to the patient to be a test but actually are not), distraction tests that attempt to reproduce positive physical findings when the patient is distracted, regional disturbances that do not correspond to a neuroanatomic or dermatomal distribution and overreaction during the examination.

Location of Pain and Motor Deficits in Association with Nerve Root Involvement

Disc level

Location of pain

Motor deficit


Pain in inguinal region and medial thigh



Pain in anterior and medial aspect of upper thigh

Slight weakness in quadriceps; slightly diminished suprapatellar reflex


Pain in anterolateral thigh

Weakened quadriceps; diminished patellar or supra-patellar reflex


Pain in posterolateral thigh and anterior tibial area

Weakened quadriceps; diminished patellar reflex


Pain in dorsum of foot

Extensor weakness of big toe and foot


Pain in lateral aspect of foot

Diminished or absent Achilles reflex

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Constipation Prescription

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