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Daniel Viggiani and Jack P. Callaghan

A prolonged standing exposure can identify asymptomatic adults who have a higher risk of developing clinical low back pain later in life. Hip abductor cocontraction differences can predict low back pain development during standing exposures. This study’s purpose was to determine if hip abductor strength, fatigability, and recovery during prolonged standing were related to standing-induced low back pain. Forty young, asymptomatic adults (50% female) performed two 2-hour standing sessions; a fatiguing hip abductor exercise was performed prior to 1 of the 2 standing sessions. Hip abductor strength and surface electromyography of gluteus medius and tensor fascia latae were measured. Self-reported low back pain differentiated low back pain developing (PD) and nonpain developing (NPD) groups. The PD group hip abductors fatigued before the NPD group, with similar perceived effort and force losses. Mean power frequency decreases with fatigue were similar between pain groups for all muscles measured after the fatiguing exercise. Unlike NPDs, PDs did not recover force losses after 120 minutes of standing. Hip abductor fatigability may be related to the development of low back pain in this population.

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Daniel Viggiani and Jack P. Callaghan

Viscoelastic creep generated in the lumbar spine following sustained spine flexion may affect the relationship between tissue damage and perceived pain. Two processes supporting this altered relationship include altered neural feedback and inflammatory processes. Our purpose was to determine how low back mechanical pain sensitivity changes following seated lumbar spine flexion using pressure algometry in a repeated-measures, cross-sectional laboratory design. Thirty-eight participants underwent a 10-minute sustained seated maximal flexion exposure with a 40-minute standing recovery period. Pressure algometry assessed pressure pain thresholds and the perceived intensity and unpleasantness of fixed pressures. Accelerometers measured spine flexion angles, and electromyography measured muscular activity during flexion. The flexion exposure produced 4.4° (2.7°) of creep that persisted throughout the entire recovery period. The perception of low back stimulus unpleasantness was elevated immediately following the exposure, 20 minutes before a delayed increase in lumbar erector spinae muscle activity. Women reported the fixed pressures to be more intense than men. Sustained flexion had immediate consequences to the quality of mechanical stimulus perceived but did not alter pressure pain thresholds. Neural feedback and inflammation seemed unlikely mechanisms for this given the time and direction of pain sensitivity changes, leaving a postulated cortical influence.

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Brendan L. Pinto, Daniel Viggiani, and Jack P. Callaghan

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.

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Daniel Viggiani, Erin M. Mannen, Erika Nelson-Wong, Alexander Wong, Gary Ghiselli, Kevin B. Shelburne, Bradley S. Davidson, and Jack P. Callaghan

People developing transient low back pain during standing have altered control of their spine and hips during standing tasks, but the transfer of these responses to other tasks has not been assessed. This study used video fluoroscopy to assess lumbar spine intervertebral kinematics of people who do and do not develop standing-induced low back pain during a seated chair-tilting task. A total of 9 females and 8 males were categorized as pain developers (5 females and 3 males) or nonpain developers (4 females and 5 males) using a 2-hour standing exposure; pain developers reported transient low back pain and nonpain developers did not. Participants were imaged with sagittal plane fluoroscopy at 25 Hz while cyclically tilting their pelvises anteriorly and posteriorly on an unstable chair. Intervertebral angles, relative contributions, and anterior–posterior translations were measured for the L3/L4, L4/L5, and L5/S1 joints and compared between sexes, pain groups, joints, and tilting directions. Female pain developers experienced more extension in their L5/S1 joints in both tilting directions compared with female nonpain developers, a finding not present in males. The specificity in intervertebral kinematics to sex-pain group combinations suggests that these subgroups of pain developers and nonpain developers may implement different control strategies.