Low back joint loading and kinematics during standing and unsupported sitting

Ergonomics. 2001 Feb 20;44(3):280-94. doi: 10.1080/00140130118276.


The aim was to examine lumbar spine kinematics, spinal joint loads and trunk muscle activation patterns during a prolonged (2 h) period of sitting. This information is necessary to assist the ergonomist in designing work where posture variation is possible -- particularly between standing and various styles of sitting. Joint loads were predicted with a highly detailed anatomical biomechanical model (that incorporated 104 muscles, passive ligaments and intervertebral discs), which utilized biological signals of spine posture and muscle electromyograms (EMG) from each trial of each subject. Sitting resulted in significantly higher (p<0.001) low back compressive loads (mean +/- SD 1698 +/- 467 N) than those experienced by the lumbar spine during standing (1076 +/- 243 N). Subjects were equally divided into adopting one of two sitting strategies: a single 'static' or a 'dynamic' multiple posture approach. Within each individual, standing produced a distinctly different spine posture compared with sitting, and standing spine postures did not overlap with flexion postures adopted in sitting when spine postures were averaged across all eight subjects. A rest component (as noted in an amplitude probability distribution function from the EMG) was present for all muscles monitored in both sitting and standing tasks. The upper and lower erector spinae muscle groups exhibited a shifting to higher levels of activation during sitting. There were no clear muscle activation level differences in the individuals who adopted different sitting strategies. Standing appears to be a good rest from sitting given the reduction in passive tissue forces. However, the constant loading with little dynamic movement which characterizes both standing and sitting would provide little rest/change for muscular activation levels or low back loading.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Electromyography
  • Ergonomics*
  • Humans
  • Low Back Pain / physiopathology
  • Low Back Pain / prevention & control*
  • Lumbar Vertebrae / physiology*
  • Male
  • Models, Biological
  • Posture*