Estimation of loads on human lumbar spine: A review of in vivo and computational model studies

J Biomech. 2016 Apr 11;49(6):833-845. doi: 10.1016/j.jbiomech.2015.12.038. Epub 2015 Dec 31.


Spinal loads are recognized to play a causative role in back disorders and pain. Knowledge of lumbar spinal loads is required in proper management of various spinal disorders, effective risk prevention and assessment in the workplace, sports and rehabilitation, realistic testing of spinal implants as well as adequate loading in in vitro studies. During the last few decades, researchers have used a number of techniques to estimate spinal loads by measuring in vivo changes in the intradiscal pressure, body height, or forces and moments transmitted via instrumented vertebral implants. In parallel, computational models have been employed to estimate muscle forces and spinal loads under various static and dynamic conditions. Noteworthy is the increasing growth in latter computational investigations. This paper aims to review, compare and critically evaluate the existing literature on in vivo measurements and computational model studies of lumbar spinal loads to lay the foundation for future biomechanical studies. Towards this goal, the paper reviews in separate sections models dealing with static postures (standing, sitting, lying) as well as slow and fast dynamic activities (lifting, sudden perturbations and vibrations). The findings are helpful in many areas such as work place safety design and ergonomics, injury prevention, performance enhancement, implant design and rehabilitation management.

Keywords: Computational models; Dynamic activities; In vivo measurements; Intradiscal pressure; Lumbar spinal loads; MiSpEx; Muscle activation; static tasks.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Computer Simulation
  • Humans
  • Lumbar Vertebrae / physiology*
  • Movement
  • Muscle, Skeletal / physiology
  • Posture / physiology
  • Pressure
  • Range of Motion, Articular
  • Weight-Bearing / physiology*