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.
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.
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’.