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Biomechanics of Changes in Lumbar Posture in Static Lifting

Arjmand, Navid MSc; Shirazi-Adl, Aboulfazl PhD


Study Design. In vivo measurements and model studies are combined to investigate the role of lumbar posture in static lifting tasks.

Objectives. Identification of the role of changes in the lumbar posture on muscle forces, internal loads, and system stability in static lifting tasks with and without load in hands.

Summary of Background Data. Despite the recognition of the causal role of lifting in spinal injuries, the advantages of preservation or flattening of the lumbar lordosis while performing lifting tasks is not yet clear.

Methods. Kinematics of the spine and surface EMG activity of selected muscles were measured in 15 healthy subjects under different forward trunk flexion angles and load cases. Apart from the freestyle lumbar posture, subjects were instructed to take either lordotic or kyphotic posture as well. A kinematics-based method along with a nonlinear finite element model were interactively used to compute muscle forces, internal loads and system stability margin under postures, and loads considered in in vivo investigations.

Results. In comparison with the kyphotic postures, the lordotic postures increased the pelvic rotation, active component of extensor muscle forces, segmental axial compression and shear forces at L5-S1, and spinal stability margin while decreasing the passive muscle forces and segmental flexion moments.

Conclusion. Alterations in the lumbar lordosis in lifting resulted in significant changes in the muscle forces and internal spinal loads. Spinal shear forces at different segmental levels were influenced by changes in both the disc inclinations and extensor muscle lines of action as the posture altered. Considering internal spinal loads and active-passive muscle forces, the current study supports the freestyle posture or a posture with moderate flexion as the posture of choice in static lifting tasks.

Effect of changes in the lumbar posture on trunk muscle activities, spinal loads, and stability was investigated by a combined in vivo model investigation. Lordotic postures increased active muscle forces, internal shear/compression forces, and system stability margin. Kyphotic postures increased passive muscle forces and segmental moments.

From the Department of Mechanical Engineering, École Polytechnique Montréal, Québec, Canada.

Acknowledgment date: September 28, 2004. First revision date: February 15, 2005. Second revision date: April 12, 2005. Acceptance date: April 13, 2005.

Supported by grants from the NSERC-Canada and the IRSST-Quebec.

The manuscript submitted does not contain information about medical device(s)/drug(s).

Federal and Institutional funds were received in support of this work. No benefits in any form have been or will be received from a commercial party related directly or indirectly to the subject of this manuscript.

Address correspondence and reprint requests to Aboulfazl Shirazi-Adl, PhD, Department of Mechanical Engineering, École Polytechnique, P.O. Box 6079, Station ‘centre-ville,’ Montréal, Québec, Canada H3C 3A7; E-mail:

© 2005 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.