Obesity and loading during lifting

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Pryce, Rob
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Background Obesity is associated with an increased risk of back pain, attributed to elevated mechanical load. Back injury risk is also determined by movement patterns (kinematics) and physiological factors (exertion, muscle activation). Lifting, particularly repetitive, is the most frequently cited injurious activity. However, in spite of the obvious relation, a paucity of information exists quantifying the interaction of obesity and repetition during lifting. Purpose To determine the effects of obesity and repetition on mechanical, kinematic and physiological lifting outcomes. Methods: An individual-specific, biomechanical model (based upon 3D photogrammetry) was developed to estimate the effect of obesity on back load during lifting (study 1). Lifting strategy and physiological outcomes related to obesity were examined in a fixed-pace, repetitive lifting task (study 2). The effect of task constraints on lifting strategy of high and normal BMI individuals were determined (study 3), followed by an evaluation of muscle activation responses during a repetitive trunk motion similar to that encountered during lifting (study 4). Results: Obesity-specific alterations of important determinants of back load (inertia, CMloc) were revealed. Obesity was related to a substantial increase in back load (M=+197.3, SE=16.8 Nm about L5/S1), however the effect differed across lifting tasks. The lifting strategy of high-BMI individuals was characterized by an increased distance to the external mass (M=+4.7, SE=1.8 cm) and shorter lift duration (M=230, SE=130 msec), with increased cardiovascular effort (M=+7.4, SE=3.4% HRmax) but no change in perceived exertion. Lifting frequency was not a major determinant of lifting strategy, however strategy was influenced by the presence and type of external pacing. A phase-specific, rapid alteration in muscle activation response was evident in the MMG signal during the initial repetitions of a repetitive trunk motion. Conclusion: The effect of obesity during lifting is task-dependent, and cannot be attributable solely to mechanical factors. Future studies should consider tasks that are unconstrained, and examine the initial familiarization period of repetitive tasks, specifically the lowering phase of motions. These findings have relevance to back injury mechanisms related to obesity and the design of injury prevention programs for individuals with a high BMI.
obesity, biomechanics, lifting, back injury