Intra-abdominal pressure mechanism for stabilizing the lumbar spine

J Biomech. 1999 Jan;32(1):13-7. doi: 10.1016/s0021-9290(98)00129-8.


Currently, intra-abdominal pressure (IAP) is thought to provide stability to the lumbar spine but the exact principles have yet to be specified. A simplified physical model was constructed and theoretical calculations performed to illustrate a possible intra-abdominal pressure mechanism for stabilizing the spine. The model consisted of an inverted pendulum with linear springs representing abdominal and erector spinae muscle groups. The IAP force was simulated with a pneumatic piston activated with compressed air. The critical load of the model was calculated theoretically based on the minimum potential energy principle and obtained experimentally by increasing weight on the model until the point of buckling. Two distinct mechanisms were simulated separately and in combination. One was antagonistic flexor extensor muscle coactivation and the second was abdominal muscle activation along with generation of IAP. Both mechanisms were effective in stabilizing the model of a lumbar spine. The critical load and therefore the stability of the spine model increased with either increased antagonistic muscle coactivation forces or increased IAP along with increased abdominal spring force. Both mechanisms were also effective in providing mechanical stability to the spine model when activated simultaneously. Theoretical calculation of the critical load agreed very well with experimental results (95.5% average error). The IAP mechanism for stabilizing the lumbar spine appears preferable in tasks that demand trunk extensor moment such as lifting or jumping. This mechanism can increase spine stability without the additional coactivation of erector spinae muscles.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Abdomen / physiology*
  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Humans
  • Lumbosacral Region
  • Muscle, Skeletal / physiology
  • Pressure
  • Spine / physiology*