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Lumbar spine postures in Marines during simulated operational positions

Berry DB, Rodríguez-Soto AE, Su J, Gombatto SP, Shahidi B, Palombo L, Chung C, Jensen A, Kelly KR, Ward SR.
J Orthop Res, 2017 35(10):2145-2153. Epub 2017 Jan 30.


Low back pain has a 70% higher prevalence in members of the armed forces than in the general population, possibly due to the loads and positions soldiers experience during training and combat. Although the influence of heavy load carriage on standing lumbar spine posture in this population is known, postures in other operationally relevant positions are unknown. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to characterize the effect of simulated military operational positions under relevant loading conditions on global and local lumbar spine postures in active duty male US Marines. Secondary objectives were to evaluate if intervertebral disc degeneration and low back pain affect lumbar spine postures. Magnetic resonance images were acquired on an upright scanner in the following operational positions: Natural standing with no external load, standing with body armor (11.3 kg), sitting with body armor, and prone on elbows with body armor. Custom software was used to measure global lumbar spine posture: Lumbosacral flexion, sacral slope, lordosis, local measures of intervertebral angles, and intervertebral distances. Sitting resulted in decreased lumbar lordosis at all levels of the spine except L1-L2. When subjects were prone on elbows, a significant increase in local lordosis was observed only at L5-S1 compared with all other positions. Marines with disc degeneration (77%) or history of low back pain (72%) had decreased lumbar range of motion and less lumbar extension than healthy Marines. These results indicate that a male Marine's pathology undergoes a stereotypic set of postural changes during functional tasks, which may impair performance.

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