What Is Kemp Test? | Physiotherapy

Kemp Test


Kemp Test is an orthopaedic test in which a patient is in a seated position and is placed into simultaneous extension and rotation of the lumbar spine. A true positive test produces numbness or tingling radiating to the legs. This indicates disc involvement. Many examiners use it to assess the facet joints as well.

Purpose of kemp test

The purpose of the kemp test is to evaluate pain in the facet joints of the lumbar spine. It uses the patient’s trunk as a lever to induce tension and as a compression force. This test is used to differentiate and diagnose the posterior lumbar syndrome, although it is nonspecific.

It is a provocation test to perceive pain, while pain radiating down the leg is more suggestive of nerve root irritation. Especially if the pain is below the knee.

Kemp test technique

The lumbar quadrant test may be performed with the patient either in the seated or standing position.

Standing position

  • The patient is standing in front of the therapist.
  • The therapist fixes the opposite ilium on the side being tested with one hand.
  • The other hand grasps the patient’s shoulder and leads it into extension, ipsilateral lateral flexion, and bilateral rotation (3D extension movement).
  • Hold this position for three seconds.

Sitting position

  • The patient sitting with his arms crossed over his chest.
  • One hand of the therapist calms the patient’s lumbosacral area on the side to be tested.
  • The other arm controls the movement of the patient’s upper body.
  • The patient is passively absorbed to flexion, rotation, lateral flexion, and lastly extension.
  • Contingent on the patient’s response, axial compression can be applied in the fully extended and alternated position to increase stress on the posterior joints.

The Kemp Test is positive when the patient reports pain, numbness or tingling in the area of the back or lower extremities. The pain is localized on the side being observed. Local pain suggests a facet cause, while pain radiating to the leg is more suggestive of nerve root irritation. Especially if the pain is below the knee.

The sitting position is more preferable because the therapist has more control over the patient’s position and there is less muscle activation.

Procedure for kemp test

Slowly extend, latterly bend and rotate the thoracolumbar spine to the affected side. Place a hand on the back of the thigh and slide down.


Local pain is positive for irritation of the facet joints, pain radiating down the affected leg is positive for the nerve root.

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