Wrapping of trunk thoracic extensor muscles influences muscle forces and spinal loads in lifting tasks

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Abstract

Background.

An improved assessment of risk of spinal injury during lifting activities depends on an accurate estimation of trunk muscle forces, spinal loads and stability margin which in turn requires, amongst others, an accurate description of trunk muscle geometries. The lines of action of erector spinae muscles are often assumed to be linear despite the curved paths of these muscles in forward flexion postures.

Methods.

A novel approach was introduced that allowed for the proper simulation of curved paths for global extensor muscles in our Kinematics-driven finite element model. The lever arms of global muscles at different levels were restrained either to remain the same or decrease only by 10% relative to their respective values in upright posture. Based on our earlier measurements, static lifting tasks at two trunk flexions (40° and 65°) and three lumbar postures (free style, lordotic and kyphotic) with 180 N in hands were analyzed.

Findings.

Muscle forces and spinal compression at all levels substantially decreased as the global extensor muscles took curved paths. In contrast, the shear force at lower levels increased. Allowing for a 10% reduction in these lever arms during flexion increased muscle forces and compression forces at all levels. Despite smaller muscle forces, wrapping of global muscles slightly improved the spinal stability.

Interpretation.

Consideration of global extensor muscles with curved paths and realistic lever arms is important in biomechanical analysis of lifting tasks. Reduction in the erector spinae lever arms during flexion tasks could vary depending on the lumbar posture. Results advocate small flattening of the lumbar curvature in isometric lifts yielding smaller compression and shear forces at the critical L5–S1 level.

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