Flexion-relaxation response to static lumbar flexion in males and females

Clin Biomech (Bristol, Avon). 2003 May;18(4):273-9. doi: 10.1016/s0268-0033(03)00024-x.


Objective: To determine if creep developed in the lumbar viscoelastic tissues during a period of static flexion elicited changes in the muscular responses of the flexion-relaxation phenomenon.

Background: Static lumbar flexion is a risk factor in workers, yet the physiological biomechanical and histological processes active in the evolution of the consequent low back disorder were not demonstrated experimentally. Controlled animal studies show that static lumbar flexion develops creep in the associated viscoelastic tissues and elicits spasms and modification of muscle function. Such neuromuscular changes are to be investigated in this study while assessing normal human subjects via the flexion-relaxation phenomenon.

Methods: Male and female subject groups performed three bouts of lumbar flexion-extension before and after a 10 min period of static lumbar flexion. The surface electromyographic from the erector spinae muscles as well as flexion angle were recorded. The angle in which electromyographic diminished during flexion and initiated during extension was determined and subjected to ANOVA with repeated measures to determine any significant changes in the flexion-relaxation response.

Results: The erector spinae were active through a significantly larger angle during flexion and initiated activity significantly earlier during extension after static flexion. Females demonstrated more pronounced changes than males. EMG amplitude did not change significantly. Spasms were recorded in more than half of the subjects during the static flexion period.

Conclusions: Creep developed during a short static lumbar flexion elicited significant changes in the muscular activity pattern of the flexion-relaxation phenomenon. The muscles seem to compensate for the loss of tension in the lumbar viscoelastic tissues, while spasms suggest that some micro-damage was incurred to the viscoelastic tissues.

Relevance: Static lumbar flexion is shown experimentally as an activity that constitutes an occupational risk factor for the development of low back disorder.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Elasticity
  • Electromyography / methods
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Isometric Contraction / physiology*
  • Lumbar Vertebrae / physiology*
  • Male
  • Movement / physiology*
  • Muscle Relaxation / physiology
  • Muscle, Skeletal / physiology*
  • Posture / physiology
  • Range of Motion, Articular / physiology*
  • Rotation
  • Sex Factors
  • Viscosity