Lumbar muscle structure predicts operational postures in active-duty Marines

Berry DB, Shahidi B, Rodríguez-Soto AE, Hughes-Austin JM, Kelly KR, Ward SR.
J Orthop Sports Phys Ther, 2018 48(8):613-621. Epub 2018 May 17.


BACKGROUND: The relationship between lumbar spine posture and muscle structure is not well understood. Objectives To investigate the predictive capacity of muscle structure on lumbar spine posture in active-duty Marines.
METHODS: Forty-three Marines were scanned in this cross-sectional study, using an upright magnetic resonance imaging scanner while standing without load and standing, sitting, and prone on elbows with body armor. Cobb, horizontal, and sacral angles were measured. Marines were then scanned while unloaded in supine using a supine magnetic resonance imaging scanner. The imaging protocol consisted of T2 intervertebral disc mapping; high-resolution, anatomical, fat-water separation, and diffusion tensor imaging to quantify disc hydration and muscle volume, fat fraction, and restricted diffusion profiles in the lumbar muscles. A stepwise multiple linear regression model was used to identify physiological measures predictive of lumbar spine posture.
RESULTS: The multiple regression model demonstrated that fractional anisotropy of the erector spinae was a significant predictor of lumbar posture for 7 of 18 dependent variables measured, and explained 20% to 35% of the variance in each model. Decreased fractional anisotropy of the erector spinae predicted decreased lordosis, lumbosacral extension, and anterior pelvic tilt.
CONCLUSION: Fractional anisotropy is inversely related with muscle fiber size, which is associated with the isometric force-generating capacity of a muscle fiber. This suggests that stronger erector spinae muscles predict decreased lordosis, lumbosacral extension, and anterior pelvic tilt in a highly trained population.

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