Brace yourself: How abdominal bracing affects intersegmental lumbar spine kinematics in response to sudden loading

J Electromyogr Kinesiol. 2020 Oct;54:102451. doi: 10.1016/j.jelekin.2020.102451. Epub 2020 Jul 21.


Abdominal bracing is a voluntary method of increasing spine stiffness to restrict spine displacement. Previous investigations of abdominal bracing have measured effects on whole lumbar motion; however, how this effect is distributed across the lumbar spine is unknown. Therefore, this study was designed to test the influence of abdominal bracing on spine intersegmental (T9/T10 to L5/S1) flexion, measured via skin surface markers, in response to sudden loading perturbations applied through the hands in 16 young healthy participants. Abdominal and back muscle activation responses were also measured. The results demonstrated that abdominal bracing significantly reduced sagittal plane motion at intersegmental levels T12/L1 to L4/L5, by 45% (0.74 degrees) at L4/L5 to 94% (0.71 degrees) at L1/L2 compared to control. L5/S1 experienced a 50% (0.36 degrees) reduction, but this was not statistically significant. Additionally, abdominal bracing resulted in greater baseline activation of all abdominal and back muscles, but did not affect onset times or response magnitudes of any of the back muscles acting counter to the perturbation. Therefore, the elevated baseline activation of trunk musculature during an abdominal brace serves to restrict flexion motion at the majority of the intersegmental lumbar spine (T12/L1 to L4/5) in response to sudden trunk flexion perturbations.

Keywords: EMG; Flexion; Intervertebral; Muscle; Spine; Trunk.

MeSH terms

  • Abdominal Muscles / physiology*
  • Adult
  • Arm / physiology
  • Back Muscles / physiology
  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lifting
  • Lumbosacral Region / physiology*
  • Male
  • Range of Motion, Articular*
  • Weight-Bearing