Abstract The in vivo lumbar spine of the anaesthetized feline was subjected to passive cyclic anterior flexion–extension at 0.25 Hz and 40 N peak load for cumulative 60 min duration. Displacement (or displacement neuromuscular neutral zones—DNNZ) and tension (or tension neuromuscular neutral zones—TNNZ) at which reflexive EMG activity from the multifidi muscles was initiated and terminated were recorded, for single-test cycles, before and for 7 h after cyclic loading. Displacement and tension NNZs increased significantly after loading. The displacement NNZs decreased exponentially to near baseline by the 7th hour of rest. The tension NNZs, however, decreased to below the baseline by the 2nd to 3rd hour after loading and continued decreasing into the 7th hour. Peak EMG significantly decreased (49–57%) to below the baseline immediately after loading and then exponentially increased, exceeding the baseline by the 2nd to 3rd hour and reaching 33–59% above baseline by the 7th hour. EMG median frequency decreased after loading and then exceeded the baseline after the 3rd hour, indicating initial de-recruitment, followed by recruitment of new motor units. These findings suggest that the lumbar spine was exposed to instability for 2–3 h after cyclic loading, due to concurrent laxity of the viscoelastic tissues and deficient muscular activity. A delayed neuromuscular compensation mechanism was found to exist, triggering the musculature significantly earlier and at higher magnitude than baseline, while the viscoelastic tissues were still lax. Thus, it is suggested that prolonged cyclic loading may compromise lumbar stability during the immediate 2–3 h post-loading, increasing the risk of injury.