Purpose: To examine the influence of volitional preemptive abdominal contraction (VPAC) and recurrent low back pain (rLBP) on trunk mechanics and neuromuscular control during a symmetric lifting task.
Methods: A 2 × 2 crossover mixed design was used to examine the effects of VPAC and group. Thirty-seven healthy individuals and 32 rLBP individuals performed symmetric box lifting trials with and without VPAC to a 1-m height table 3D trunk, pelvis, and hip joint angle and electromyographic magnitude variables were obtained. Selected variables were analyzed using ANOVA.
Results: The VPAC induced differences in joint kinematics and muscle activity in rLBP and healthy subjects during symmetric lifting. A significant two-way interaction effect was observed for the semitendinosus activity. The VPAC increased external oblique muscle activity, reduced erector spinae and multifidus muscles activity, and induced greater trunk flexion angle, greater trunk side flexion angle, and greater hip flexion angle, and decreased pelvis obliquity angle in both groups. In addition, the rLBP subjects presented with a reduced external oblique and gluteus maximus muscle activity, greater erector spinae and multifidus muscles activity, and greater pelvis posterior tilt angle.
Conclusions: Our results provide evidence that a VPAC strategy performed during symmetric lifting may potentially reduce exposure to biomechanical factors that can contribute to lumbar spine injury. The hamstring muscles may play an important role in achieving pelvic balance during the lifting maneuver. Incorporating the VPAC during dynamic stressful activities appears to help improve sensorimotor control and facilitate positioning of the lower extremities and the pelvis, while protecting the lumbar spine.
Keywords: Injury prevention; Lifting; Low back pain; Spine biomechanics; Spine stability.