As torso flexion and repetitive lifting are known risk factors for low back pain and injury, it is important to investigate lifting techniques that might reduce injury during repetitive lifting. By normalizing lumbar posture to a subject’s range of motion (ROM), as a function of torso flexion, this research examined when subjects approached their range of motion limits during dynamic lifting tasks. For this study, it was hypothesized that experienced lifters would maintain a more neutral lumbar angle relative to their range of motion, while novice lifters would approach the limits of their lumbar ROM during the extension phase of a straight-leg lift. The results show a statistically significant difference in lifting patterns for these two groups supporting this hypothesis. The novice group maintained a much more kyphotic lumbar angle for both the flexion (74% of the lumbar angle ROM) and extension phases (86% of the lumbar angle ROM) of the lifting cycle, while the experienced group retained a more neutral curvature throughout the entire lifting cycle (37% of lumbar angle ROM in flexion and 48% of lumbar angle ROM in extension). By approaching the limits of their range of motion, the novice lifters could be at greater risk of injury by placing greater loads on the supporting soft tissues of the spine.
Future research should examine whether training subjects to assume more neutral postures during lifting could indeed lower injury risks.