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Disturbance and recovery of trunk mechanical and neuromuscular behaviours following prolonged trunk flexion: influences of duration and external load on creep-induced effects

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Trunk flexion results in adverse mechanical effects on the spine and is associated with a higher incidence of low back pain. To examine the effects of creep deformation on trunk behaviours, participants were exposed to full trunk flexion in several combinations of exposure duration and external load. Trunk mechanical and neuromuscular behaviours were obtained pre- and post-exposure and during recovery using sudden perturbations. Intrinsic trunk stiffness decreased with increasing flexion duration and in the presence of the external load. Recovery of intrinsic stiffness required more time than the exposure duration and was influenced by exposure duration. Reflexive trunk responses increased immediately following exposure but recovered quickly (∼2.5 min). Alterations in reflexive trunk behaviour following creep deformation exposures may not provide adequate compensation to allow for complete recovery of concurrent reductions in intrinsic stiffness, which may increase the risk of injury due to spinal instability.

Statement of relevance: An increased risk of low back injury may result from flexion-induced disturbances to trunk behaviours. Such effects, however, appear to depend on the type of flexion exposure, and have implications for the design of work involving trunk flexion.
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Keywords: creep deformation; low back pain; prolonged flexion; reflex; spine biomechanics; stiffness

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Center for Biomedical Engineering,University of Kentucky, LexingtonKY40506, USA 2: Virginia Tech – Wake Forest School of Biomedical Engineering and Sciences,Virginia Tech, BlacksburgVA24061, USA 3: Industrial and Systems Engineering,Virginia Tech, BlacksburgVA24061, USA

Publication date: November 1, 2011

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