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The influence of different unloading positions upon stature recovery and paraspinal muscle activity

Burden, Adrian and Healey, Emma L. and Fowler, Neil E. and McEwan, Islay M. (2005) The influence of different unloading positions upon stature recovery and paraspinal muscle activity. Clinical biomechanics, 20 (4). pp. 365-371. ISSN 0268-0033

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Abstract

Objective. To determine whether stature recovery and paraspinal muscle activity can be altered in individuals with and without chronic low-back pain by assuming different unloading positions. Design. A case-control study considering the effects of unloading position on stature recovery in individuals with and without chronic low-back pain. Background. Stature recovery has been documented to be lower in individuals with chronic low-back pain. Elevated paraspinal muscle activity subjects the spine to increased compression, which may delay stature recovery. However, the mechanism(s) causing prolonged stature recovery are yet to be explored. Methods. Eleven chronic low-back pain participants (age 33 yr (SD 12.2), height 1.72 m (SD 0.08), body mass 75.9 kg (SD 10.7)) and eleven asymptomatic participants (age 30.5 yr (SD 9.7), height 1.75 m (SD 0.10), body mass 73.3 kg (SD 11.7)) performed a loaded walking task (10% body mass) and adopted four unloading positions on separate occasions. Measurements of stature and muscle activity were recorded during each position. Findings. Individuals with chronic low-back pain exhibited higher paraspinal EMG and delayed stature recovery in all positions (P < 0.05). Both groups experienced greatest stature recovery and least muscle activity during gravity inversion (P < 0.05). Interpretation. Elevated muscle activity was found in the chronic low-back pain group supporting the existence of this explanation for delayed stature recovery. The gravity inverted position resulted in the lowest EMG and the greatest stature recovery. Further research is required to determine whether improving stature recovery has clinical implications by reducing pain/disability.

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