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Simon Wang and Stuart M. McGill

Spine stability is ensured through isometric coactivation of the torso muscles; however, these same muscles are used cyclically to assist ventilation. Our objective was to investigate this apparent paradoxical role (isometric contraction for stability or rhythmic contraction for ventilation) of some selected torso muscles that are involved in both ventilation and support of the spine. Eight, asymptomatic, male subjects provided data on low back moments, motion, muscle activation, and hand force. These data were input to an anatomically detailed, biologically driven model from which spine load and a lumbar spine stability index was obtained. Results revealed that subjects entrained their torso stabilization muscles to breathe during demanding ventilation tasks. Increases in lung volume and back extensor muscle activation coincided with increases in spine stability, whereas declines in spine stability were observed during periods of low lung inflation volume and simultaneously low levels of torso muscle activation. As a case study, aberrant ventilation motor patterns (poor muscle entrainment), seen in one subject, compromised spine stability. Those interested in rehabilitation of patients with lung compromise and concomitant back troubles would be assisted with knowledge of the mechanical links between ventilation during tasks that impose spine loading.

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Priyanka Banerjee, Stephen H.M Brown, Samuel J. Howarth and Stuart M. McGill

The ProFitter 3-D Cross Trainer is a labile surface device used in the clinic and claimed to train spine stability. The purpose of this study was to quantify the spine mechanics (compression and shear forces and stability), together with muscle activation mechanics (surface electromyography) of the torso and hip, during three ProFitter exercises. Trunk muscle activity was relatively low while exercising on the device (<25%MVC). Gluteus medius activity was phasic with the horizontal sliding position, especially for an experienced participant. Sufficient spinal stability was achieved in all three exercise conditions. Peak spinal compression values were below 3400 N (maximum 3188 N) and peak shear values were correspondingly low (under 500 N). The exercises challenge whole-body dynamic balance while producing very conservative spine loads. The motion simultaneously integrates hip and torso muscles in a way that appears to ensure stabilizing motor patterns in the spine. This information will assist with clinical decision making about the utility of the device and exercise technique in rehabilitation and training programs.