A knowledge of the rotatory motion of the vertebral bodies is needed to understand the normal biomechanical behavior of the spine. The aims of this investigation were 1) to define the instantaneous axis of rotation of the lumbar spine in rotation; and 2) to study the effect of the loss of the anulus, facet joints, and ligamentous structures on the location of the instantaneous axis of rotation. The instantaneous axis of rotation was found in 10 human cadaver thoracolumbar spines by the method of Reuleaux from superimposed serial photographs. Long-segment specimens were tested to minimize the effect of the imposed axis of the testing device. The instantaneous axis of rotation was consistently posterior to the anulus in the intact spine. With isolated destruction of the columns of the spine, the instantaneous axis of rotation migrated to the remaining intact structures. Anterior releases enhance derotation by removing the primary rotatory stabilizer. Ultimate control of a rotatory deformity or instability lies in the recognition that the anterior structures have a mechanical advantage in resisting torsion.