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J Clin Rheumatol. 2008 Apr;14(2):87-91. doi: 10.1097/RHU.0b013e31816b2f99.

The sensitivity and specificity of the Slump and the Straight Leg Raising tests in patients with lumbar disc herniation.

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Formed PM&R Center, Istanbul, Turkey.



An accurate and specific diagnosis prevents the recurrences of low back pain and chronic spinal pain. The physical examination is the most useful tool to diagnosis. The examiner must aim to determine the exact tissue that pain arises from to make the specific diagnosis. Lumbar disc herniation is 1 disease that physical examination, symptoms, and findings on imaging technique do not always correlate with each other. The Straight Leg Raising (SLR) test has been used as the primary test to diagnosis lumbar disc herniations and found to have high correlation with findings on operation since its sensitivity is high in only disc herniations leading to root compression that may eventually need operation. More sensitive test, like the Slump, might be used in herniations in which the SLR is negative. The Slump test is really a variant of the SLR and the Las├Ęgue's tests performed in the seated position and is a progressive series of maneuvers designed to place the sciatic nerve roots under increasing tension. At each step in the procedure, the patient informs the examiner what is being felt and whether radicular pain is produced. As a result, the Slump test applies traction to the nerve roots by incorporating spinal and hip joint flexion into the leg raising and would warn the examiner of the presence of nerve root compression when there is a negative SLR test.


This study measured the sensitivity and specificity of the Slump test and compare it with the SLR test in patients with and without lumbar disc herniations.


A prospective case control study of 75 patients with complaints suggestive of lumbar disc herniation was carried out in the outpatient clinics of the neurosurgery department of a state teaching hospital. Seventy-five referred or self-admitted patients with low back, leg, or low back and leg pain who had results of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the lumbar spine were included in the study. Thirty-eight patients had signs of herniation demonstrated by MRI. Control patients (n = 37) had no disc bulges or herniations on MRI. Both the Slump and SLR tests were performed during the assessment of all the patients by the second author. The MRI results were assessed and recorded by the first author.


The Slump test was found to be more sensitive (0.84) than the SLR (0.52) in the patients with lumbar disc herniations. However, the SLR was found to be a slightly more specific test (0.89) than the Slump test (0.83).


The Slump test might be used more frequently as a sensitive physical examination tool in patients with symptoms of lumbar disc herniations. In contrast, owing to its higher specificity, the SLR test may especially help identify patients who have herniations with root compression requiring surgery.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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