European Spine Journal

, Volume 22, Supplement 6, pp 834–841 | Cite as

Compensatory mechanisms contributing to keep the sagittal balance of the spine

  • Cédric Barrey
  • Pierre Roussouly
  • Jean-Charles Le Huec
  • Gennaro D’Acunzi
  • Gilles Perrin
Original Article



Aging spine is characterized by facet joints arthritis, degenerative disc disease, bone remodeling and atrophy of extensor muscles resulting in a progressive kyphosis of the lumbar spine.


The aim of this paper is to describe the different compensatory mechanisms for patients with severe degenerative lumbar spine.

Material and methods

According to the severity of the imbalance, three stages are observed: balanced, balanced with compensatory mechanisms and imbalanced. For the two last stages, the compensatory mechanisms permit to limit the consequences of loss of lumbar lordosis on global sagittal alignment and therefore contribute to keep the sagittal balance of the spine.


The basic concept is to extend adjacent segments of the kyphotic spine allowing for compensation of the sagittal unbalance but potentially inducing adverse effects.


Finally, we propose a three-step algorithm to analyze the global balance status and take into consideration the presence of the compensatory mechanisms in the spinal, pelvic and lower limb areas.


Sagittal balance Pelvis Spinal alignment Lumbar lordosis Degenerative disc disease Lumbar kyphosis 



Lumbar lordosis


Pelvic incidence


Pelvic tilt


Sacral slope


Thoracic kyphosis



We express our gratitude to Ms Chantal Silarakis, Hôpital Neurologique P. Wertheimer, Hospices Civils de Lyon, France, for her assistance in paper’s translation.

Conflict of interest



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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Cédric Barrey
    • 1
    • 2
    • 5
  • Pierre Roussouly
    • 3
  • Jean-Charles Le Huec
    • 4
  • Gennaro D’Acunzi
    • 1
  • Gilles Perrin
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Neurosurgery C and Spine SurgeryNeurological HospitalLyonFrance
  2. 2.Laboratory of BiomechanicsENSAM, Arts et Metiers ParisTechParisFrance
  3. 3.Department of Orthopaedic SurgeryClinique médico-chirurgicale des MassuesLyonFrance
  4. 4.Department of Orthopedic SurgeryUniversity HospitalBordeauxFrance
  5. 5.LyonFrance

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