Variation in lifting kinematics related to individual intrinsic lumbar curvature: an investigation in healthy adults

Anastasia V. Pavlova, Judith R. Meakin, Kay Cooper, Rebecca J Barr, Richard M Aspden

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)
9 Downloads (Pure)


Objective Lifting postures are frequently implicated in back pain. We previously related responses to a static load with intrinsic spine shape, and here we investigate the role of lumbar spine shape in lifting kinematics. Methods Thirty healthy adults (18–65 years) performed freestyle, stoop and squat lifts with a weighted box (6–15 kg, self-selected) while being recorded by Vicon motion capture. Internal spine shape was characterised using statistical shape modelling (SSM) from standing mid-sagittal MRIs. Associations were investigated between spine shapes quantified by SSM and peak flexion angles. Results Two SSM modes described variations in overall lumbar curvature (mode 1 (M1), 55% variance) and the evenness of curvature distribution (mode 2 (M2), 12% variance). M1 was associated with greater peak pelvis (r=0.38, p=0.04) and smaller knee flexion (r=–0.40, p=0.03) angles; individuals with greater curviness preferred to lift with a stooped lifting posture. This was confirmed by analysis of those individuals with very curvy or very straight spines (|M1|>1 SD). There were no associations between peak flexion angles and mode scores in stoop or squat trials (p>0.05). Peak flexion angles were positively correlated between freestyle and squat trials but not between freestyle and stoop or squat and stoop, indicating that individuals adjusted knee flexion while maintaining their preferred range of lumbar flexion and that ‘squatters’ adapted better to different techniques than ‘stoopers’. Conclusion Spinal curvature affects preferred lifting styles, and individuals with curvier spines adapt more easily to different lifting techniques. Lifting tasks may need to be tailored to an individual’s lumbar spine shape. This is an open access article distributed in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial (CC BY-NC 4.0) license, which permits others to distribute, remix, adapt, build upon this work non-commercially, and license their derivative works on different terms, provided the original work is properly cited, appropriate credit is given, any changes made indicated, and the use is non-commercial. See:
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere000374
JournalBMJ Open Sport & Exercise Medicine
Issue number1
Early online date15 Jul 2018
Publication statusPublished - 2018

Bibliographical note

We thank B MacLennan and Baljit Jagpal for acquisition and consultation on MRI; Jacqueline Alderson (The University of Western Australia) and her team for training on and use of their model; and Dr Mandy Plumb for performing the preceding pilot studies.


Dive into the research topics of 'Variation in lifting kinematics related to individual intrinsic lumbar curvature: an investigation in healthy adults'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this