Diagnostic Testing Series: Evidence Based Assessment of the Lumbar Spine

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The purpose of this presentation is to present current evidence for the recognition and assessment of Lumbar spine pathologies. There are a multitude of assessment tools that are utilized to evaluate lumbar spine pathology. Only a few have been studied as to whether they have high diagnostic accuracy.  It is important that the clinician applies the most applicable test for each lumbar condition.  There is evidence that supports the use of specific clinical assessment tools for certain lumbar conditions.  It is up to the clinician to determine what assessment tool/test/technique is the most appropriate for each condition based upon the tests diagnostic capability.

Learning Objectives:

  • Define Low back pain
  • Increase awareness of the prevalence and impact of lumbar spine disorders.
  • Engage in a discussion on evidence-based triage and screening methods for evaluating lumbar spine conditions.
  • Apply evidence-based examination techniques to evaluate the lumbar spine.
  • Determine the most reliable and valid tests for confirming the presence of a lumbar spine pathology.


Domain 2: Assessment Evaluation and Diagnosis 

1.25 Category A

Keywords: lumbar spine, pathologies, diagnostic, examination, screening, valid test

Michael Higgins PhD, ATC, PT, CSCS, LAT

Michael is a Professor and Director of the Graduate Athletic Training Program at the University of Virginia.  He received a Master’s degree in Athletic training from the University of Virginia and a PhD in Biomechanics and Movement Science from the University of Delaware. 

Michael has over 32 years of experience working in both the clinical and collegiate settings. His clinical work focuses on manual therapy and athletic specific training.  He has worked at the Union Memorial Sports Medicine Center in Baltimore, MD.  He was an assistant professor and Associate athletic trainer at Duquesne University and University of Delaware where he worked primarily with, men’s lacrosse, men’s basketball, and women’s soccer. He was also a co-owner of Sports Performance Training Systems providing sport specific training for athletes of all ages. 

He has presented at local, state, regional, and national conferences on head impact biomechanics in lacrosse, soccer and manual therapy techniques for the extremities and spine, and athlete specific rehabilitation/training. He has numerous publications in peer reviewed journals and is the author of the textbook Therapeutic Exercise from Theory to Clinical Practice. 

He was awarded the NATA Service Award and Most Distinguished Athletic Trainer Award from the National Athletic Trainers’ Association for his contribution to the Athletic Training profession.

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