Human Musculoskeletal Biomechanics Lab


Active Projects

Occupational Low Back Pain among Nurses: a Biomechanical Study

Despite extensive ongoing efforts, occupational low back pain among nurses persists as a major work-related musculoskeletal disorder. Our premise is that low back pain is a complex and multifactorial disorder which can build from seemingly small mechanical abnormalities in the lower back that accumulate over time. The objective of this project is to determine the association between work-related changes in lower back mechanics and low back pain occurrence among nurses. Our central hypothesis is that nurses who experience larger work-related changes in their lower back mechanics are more likely to end up developing low back pain.


Spinal Loads during Activities of Daily Living: Influences of Unilateral Lower-Limb Amputation

Despite the higher prevalence of low back pain among persons with unilateral lower limb amputation compared to able-bodied individuals, relatively little is known about the fundamental mechanisms responsible for such a high risk of low back pain in this cohort. The impact of trunk neuromuscular adaptations to altered movement strategies with unilateral lower limb amputation on spinal loads are investigated in this project.


Effects of Spinal Manipulation on Trunk Mechanical Properties and Spine Biomechanics

A set of combined experimental and modeling techniques are used to explore whether the high velocity low amplitude spinal manipulation alleviates low back pain by improving spine mechanics.  Using new approaches that provide sensitive measures of biomechanical and neuromuscular behaviors of the trunk, we evaluate acute and accumulative effects of spinal manipulation on trunk mechanical and neuromuscular behaviors and the resultant effects on spine mechanics.


Completed Projects

Evaluation of Spine Health and Spine Mechanics in Servicemembers with Traumatic Lower Extremity Amputation of Injury

Persons with lower-extremity trauma report a considerably higher prevalence of low back pain compared to uninjured individuals. Alterations in the kinetics and kinematics of locomotion secondary to lower-extremity amputation/injury are associated with increased and asymmetric trunk motion. As such, a causal pathway between lower-extremity amputation/injury and low back pain, via changes in external loads and internal tissue responses, is  explored in this project. Central to this pathway, is the premise that cyclic exposure to altered locomotion and spine mechanics, via even small increases in spinal loads and/or spinal motion, could substantially accelerate disc degeneration and increase the risk for chronic low back pain, as the spine is subjected to thousands of loading cycles throughout a typical day.


Aging, Neuromuscular Behavior, and Risk of Occupational Low Back Pain

The potential role of age-related changes in mechanical behaviors of the human trunk, and in the development of low back pain via their adverse effects on spine biomechanics, will be explored in this project. The project seeks to investigate and identify the relationships between a risk factor, here aging, and associated occupational diseases and injuries. (see publications list for study findings) 


The Effects of Body Armor on Lower Back and Knee Biomechanics During Basic and Military Inspired Tasks

With increased military personal protection equipment, body armor, comes the addition of carried load.  Such person protection in recent history has been instrumental in combating the imminent threats (e.g., improvised explosive devices) of hostile environments, preventing otherwise lethal injuries.  However, body armor has been suggested to degrade warfighters’ performance and compound the risk of musculoskeletal injuries.  Both performance and risk of injury are intensely related to joint biomechanics.  Therefore the objective of this project was set to determine the immediate and prolonged effects of wearing body armor on biomechanics of the lower back and knee.  (see publications list for study findings)