Exposure to Sustained Flexion Impacts Lumbar Extensor Spinae Muscle Fiber Orientation

in Journal of Applied Biomechanics
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  • 1 University of Waterloo
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The lumbar extensor spinae (LES) has an oblique orientation with respect to the compressive axis of the lumbar spine, allowing it to counteract anterior shear forces. This mechanical advantage is lost as spine flexion angle increases. The LES orientation can also alter over time as obliquity decreases with age and is associated with decreased strength and low back pain. However, it is unknown if LES orientation is impacted by recent exposures causing adaptations over shorter timescales. Hence, the effects of a 10-minute sustained spine flexion exposure on LES orientation, thickness, and activity were investigated. Three different submaximally flexed spine postures were observed before and after the exposure. At baseline, orientation (P < .001) and thickness (P = .004) decreased with increasingly flexed postures. After the exposure, obliquity further decreased at low (pairwise comparison P < .001) and moderately (pairwise comparison P = .008) flexed postures. Low back creep occurred, but LES thickness did not change, indicating that decreases in orientation were not solely due to changes in muscle length at a given posture. Activation did not change to counteract decreases in obliquity. These changes encompass a reduced ability to offset anterior shear forces, thus increasing the potential risk of anterior shear-related injury or pain after low back creep-generating exposures.

The authors are with the Department of Kinesiology, University of Waterloo, Waterloo, ON, Canada.

Callaghan (jack.callaghan@uwaterloo.ca) is corresponding author.
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