Bad Posture can “Switch Off” Back Muscles

Slumping in front of the television or computer could deactivate muscles that support and protect your spine, triggering many otherwise inexplicable cases of lower back pain.

A European Space Agency study in Berlin, Germany, in which young men spent eight weeks in bed, showed that an absence of load on spinal support muscles can sometimes be just as debilitating as a physical injury.

Ultrasound studies have shown that in most cases of lower-back pain, either the lumbar multifidus muscles, which keep the vertebrae in place, or the transversus abdominis, which holds the pelvis together, or both, are inactive. Normally the muscles work continuously to support and protect the lower back.

Heavy lifting, whiplash or other injuries can damage and inactivate these support muscles. This increases the risk of long-term back pain, as people are then more likely to suffer sprains, or damage to the discs or other tissue in the back. However, only between 10 and 15 per cent of cases of back pain begin with such an injury. For the rest, the cause is often a mystery. Continue reading Bad Posture can “Switch Off” Back Muscles

Can Twisting cause the Agony of Back Pain?

THE first comprehensive model of the human spine is challenging our assumptions about the causes of back pain. Contrary to the idea that spinal injuries are caused by a combination of compression, bending, tension and shear forces, the 3D animated model suggests many injuries are the result of quick twists of the vertebrae, making the joints between them rotate.

Nick Beagley and Vladimir Ivancevic of the Defence Science and Technology Organisation in Edinburgh, South Australia, have spent the past 18 months developing their mathematical model, called the Full Spine Simulator (FSS). Existing models of the spine evaluate forces placed on a single joint, or a simple series of joints, and allow each just a few degrees of freedom. But the FSS represents all 25 movable joints of the spine, and gives each its full six degrees of freedom. Continue reading Can Twisting cause the Agony of Back Pain?