Effects of slouching and muscle contraction on the strain of the iliolumbar ligament
The study consisted of biomechanical modelling and in vitro experiments. The objective of the study was to find a mechanical cause of acute low back pain (LBP) in everyday situations. The precise mechanism producing LBP is still under discussion. Most biomechanical studies link the concepts of stooped postures and buckling instability of the spine under high compressive load. No biomechanical model addresses situations with small or neglectable compressive spinal load. The proposed conceptual model describes strain on the iliolumbar ligaments (ILs) when slouching from standing upright. Delayed or absent recruitment of back muscles that protect against hyperkyphosis of the lumbar spine is a conditional factor. Erector spinae and multifidus muscle forces are included, representing a bifurcation in back muscle force: one part acting on the iliac bones and one part acting on the sacrum. The multifidus muscle action on the sacrum may produce nutation which can be counteracted by pelvic floor muscles, which would link back problems and pelvic floor problems. The effect of simulated muscle tension on the ILs and the L5-S1 intervertebral disc angle was measured using embalmed specimens. Forces were applied to simulate erector spinae and sacral part of multifidus tension, bilateral up to 100 N each. Strain gauge sensors registered elongation of the ILs. Explorative biomechanical model calculations show that dynamic slouching, driven by upper body weight and (as an example) rectus abdominis muscle force may produce failure load of the spinal column and the ILs. The quasi-static test on embalmed specimens showed a significant increase of IL elongation with simulated rectus abdominis muscle force. Adding erector spinae or multifidus muscle tension eased the ILs. Sudden slouching of the upright trunk may create failure risk for the spine and ILs. This loading mode may be prevented by controlling loss of lumbar lordosis with erector spinae and multifidus muscle force.