Loads in the spinal structures during lifting: development of a three-dimensional comprehensive biomechanical model

J. S. Han, V. K. Goel*, J. Y. Ahn, J. Winterbottom, D. McGowan, James Neil Weinstein, T. Cook

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    34 Scopus citations


    Epidemiological studies have shown that loads imposed on the human spine during daily living play a significant role in the onset of low back pain. The loads applied to the lumbar spine are shared by a number of structures: muscles; posterior elements, including facets and ligaments; and the disc of a ligamentous motion segment. In vivo, it is not practical to determine forces in these structures using experimental techniques. Biomechanical models, based on an optimization technique or electromyographic activities of the trunk muscles, have been proposed to predict forces in the load transmitting structures. The mathematical models reported in the literature are based on information collected from a wide variety of sources, of which the subject that takes part in the experiment is only one. The present study describes techniques developed in our laboratory to collect from the subjects themselves all the data needed for the formulation of a biomechanical model. The results demonstrated that back lifting with 0 N (no load), 90 N, and 180 N in the hands created maximum external flexion moments respectively of 109.6 Nm, 137.9 Nm, and 161,7 Nm, at the L3-4 disc level. The corresponding external axial compression forces on the disc were 469.5 N, 511.8 N, and 601.5 N. The predicted disc compression varied from 3.4 to 5.0 times the body weight. In comparison to the static lifting mode, the dynamic lifting task caused an increase in the disc compression force ranging from 15.8% to 39.4% depending on the load being lifted (e.g., 3256 N for the dynamic mode vs. 2516 N for the static mode when the subject lifted 90 N). The salient features of the entire protocol developed by the authors and the need for further improvements are also presented.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)153-168
    Number of pages16
    JournalEuropean Spine Journal
    Issue number3
    StatePublished - Jun 1995


    • Disc compression
    • Dynamic fifting
    • Lumbar spine kinematics
    • Muscle forces
    • Optimization

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Surgery
    • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine


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