Car driving with and without a movable back support: Effect on transmission of vibration through the trunk and on its consequences for muscle activation and spinal shrinkage

Ergonomics. 2009 Jul;52(7):830-9. doi: 10.1080/00140130802559019.


The aim of this study was to test the effect of a movable backrest on vibration transmission through the trunk during driving and on the physiological consequences thereof. Eleven healthy male subjects drove for about 1 h on normal roads with a movable and with a fixed backrest while surface electromyography (EMG) was measured at the level of the fifth lumbar vertebra (L5) and vertical accelerations were measured at the seat, backrest and at the spine at the levels of the second sacral vertebra (S2) and seventh cervical vertebra (C7). The movable backrest significantly reduced accelerations at C7 by up to 11.9% at the 5 Hz frequency band. The movable backrest also significantly reduced the coherence and transmission between S2 and C7 accelerations, but not the differential motion between these sensors. EMG at both sides of L5 was on average 28% lower when using the movable backrest. Spinal shrinkage was unaffected by backrest type. It is concluded that a movable backrest reduces the transmission of vibration through the trunk and that it reduces low back EMG. Car driving is associated with the risk of developing low back pain and this may be related to exposure to whole body vibration. This study found an effect of a simple ergonomics measure on the transmission of vibration through the trunk as well as on back muscle activation.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Automobile Driving*
  • Back Injuries / prevention & control*
  • Cervical Vertebrae / injuries
  • Cohort Studies
  • Electromyography
  • Energy Transfer
  • Equipment Design
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Man-Machine Systems*
  • Muscle, Skeletal / injuries
  • Pilot Projects
  • Young Adult