Student: Mahmoud Metwali, Graduate Student in Biomedical Engineering, University of Iowa
Faculty Advisor: Dr. Nathan Fethke
Temporal Relationships of Trunk Posture Variation, Task Performance, and Low Back Muscle Fatigue During Training of a Simulated Cyclic Lifting Task
Low back pain (LBP) is among the most common non-fatal injuries reported in the United States, resulting in substantial healthcare costs and reductions in quality of life. Low back pain continues to commonly occur among several working populations in the U.S., despite decades of ergonomics research and clinical interventions. For example, manufacturing workers performing highly repetitive tasks involving the trunk are at an elevated risk of developing LBP. Conversely, astronauts returning from space missions frequently report LBP symptoms in response to prolonged exposure to microgravity conditions, but may participate in physical rehabilitation programs to develop stable motor patterns when performing Earth-bound activities (e.g., repetitive physical tasks).
A feature of repetitive motion believed important to understanding both, the occupational risk and clinical management, of LBP is the absence of motion variation between task cycles. The temporal behavior of motion variation metrics during the initial stages of motor skill acquisition (i.e., task training) is generally understood to be exponential. However, the effects of physical task characteristics (e.g., load and task pace) on the temporal behavior of motion variation and other motor learning metrics during task training are not well characterized. Ultimately, observation and characterization of motor learning may open new pathways to the development of ergonomic interventions and clinical rehabilitation programs to reduce the LBP burden among working populations in the U.S.