Author(s): Oddsson LI, Persson T, Cresswell AG, Thorstensson A
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Abstract STUDY DESIGN: An experimental study was conducted to evaluate the effect of an unexpected postural perturbation during a lifting task. OBJECTIVES: To investigate electromyographic responses in the erector spinae to a postural perturbation, simulating slipping, during an ongoing voluntary lifting movement. It was hypothesized that specific combinations of voluntary movement and postural perturbation present a situation in which injury caused by a rapid switch between conflicting motor commands can occur. SUMMARY OF BACKGROUND DATA: Studies of postural perturbations have mainly focused on behavior during static tasks such as quiet, upright standing. To date, there are no published studies of the effect of a perturbation during an ongoing voluntary lifting movement. METHODS: Subjects standing on a movable platform were exposed to random perturbations while lifting a 20-kg load. Muscle activity was recorded from flexor and extensor muscles of the trunk and hip. Trunk flexion angle in the sagittal plane was recorded with a video system. RESULTS: Perturbations forward were followed by an increased activity in erector spinae superimposed on the background activation present during the lift, indicating that both the voluntary and postural motor programs caused an activation of erector spinae. During backward perturbation, however, there was a sudden cessation of erector spinae activity followed by an extended period of rapid electromyographic amplitude fluctuations while the trunk was flexing, indicating an eccentric contraction of the erector spinae. CONCLUSIONS: This erratic behavior with large electromyographic amplitude fluctuations in the erector spinae after a backward slip during lifting may indicate a rapid switch between voluntary and postural motor programs that require conflicting functions of the back muscles. This may cause rapid force changes in load-carrying tissue, particularly in those surrounding the spine, thus increasing the risk of slip-and-fall-related back injuries.
This article was published in Spine (Phila Pa 1976)
and referenced in Journal of Ergonomics