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Landmark study uncovers reasons behind recurring back injury

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- In the first study of its kind, Ohio State University researchers believe they have found an important factor in recurring back injury: our natural tendency to avoid using hurt muscles.

The findings, to appear in the December 1 issue of the journal Spine, point to new forms of physical therapy and new safety standards for physical labor in the workplace. This work could potentially affect the incidence of severe back injury and reduce the millions of dollars in health costs and lost workdays created by these injuries every year.

William Marras, professor of industrial, welding, and systems engineering, and his colleagues discovered that people tend to compensate for back injuries by using many inappropriate muscles in place of the muscles that hurt.

"People with back pain guard the injured area by using more muscles than they need to," Marras said. "The more muscles they use, the greater the load there is on the spine."

For instance, injured people may employ muscles in their abdomen or sides, or other, uninjured back muscles, even though these muscles are not necessary for lifting.

The study revealed that people with back injuries unknowingly inflict twice as much twisting force on their spine, and 1.5 times as much compressive force as uninjured people, when lifting the same object.

Over time, greater
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Contact: William Marras
Marras.1@osu.edu
614-292-6670
Ohio State University
1-Dec-2001


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