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Landmark study uncovers reasons behind recurring back injury

because injured people are often unwilling or unable to perform the physical exertions necessary for these tests, Marras said.

To solve this problem, the researchers created a mathematical technique to obtain needed information from the partial exertions an injured person can comfortably provide.

The technique takes data from an injured person's electromyogram (EMG), a measure of a muscle's electrical activity, and calibrates it to provide a basis for comparison with an uninjured person's EMG. The researchers were then able to calculate what the forces on the spine would be if an injured person were able to exert the full power of their muscles.

For the same exertion, LBP participants used many more muscles in the back, creating much larger forces on the spine.

Marras likened the forces on the spine to a seesaw: "When people apply all those extra muscles, it's as if they're pushing down on the short end of a seesaw, and trying to lift something on the far end," Marras said. "They exert more force, and to little effect."

On average, the LBP participants weighed more than their uninjured counterparts, and weight also increases force on the spine. That's why losing weight can help people recover from back injury, Marras said.

Another route to recovery, physical therapy, may have to change to prevent recurring back injuries, he added.

Typical therapy for back injury involves helping the patient
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Contact: William Marras
Marras.1@osu.edu
614-292-6670
Ohio State University
1-Dec-2001


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