Position Sense in the Lumbar Spine with Torso Flexion and Loading

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Venkata K. Gade Kessler Medical Rehabilitation Research and Education Corporation

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Sara E. Wilson University of Kansas

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Proprioception plays an important role in appropriate sensation of spine position, movement, and stability. Previous research has demonstrated that position sense error in the lumbar spine is increased in flexed postures. This study investigated the change in position sense as a function of altered trunk flexion and moment loading independently. Reposition sense of lumbar angle in 17 subjects was assessed. Subjects were trained to assume specified lumbar angles using visual feedback. The ability of the subjects to reproduce this curvature without feedback was then assessed. This procedure was repeated for different torso flexion and moment loading conditions. These measurements demonstrated that position sense error increased significantly with the trunk flexion (40%, p < .05) but did not increase with moment load (p = .13). This increased error with flexion suggests a loss in the ability to appropriately sense and therefore control lumbar posture in flexed tasks. This loss in proprioceptive sense could lead to more variable lifting coordination and a loss in dynamic stability that could increase low back injury risk. This research suggests that it is advisable to avoid work in flexed postures.

Gade is with Kessler Medical Rehabilitation Research and Education Corporation, West Orange, NJ, and Wilson is with the Department of Mechanical Engineering, University of Kansas, Lawrence, KS.

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