The purpose of this study was to investigate short-term changes in reactions to sudden unexpected loading of the low back. The study utilized a set-up where a horizontal force of 58 N pointing forward suddenly was applied to the upper part of the subject's trunk. EMG activity from the erector spinae muscles and trunk movement data were recorded during 10 trials for 19 subjects. The analysis included EMG reaction time, mean rectified EMG amplitude during the period 50-250 ms after the sudden loading, and time elapsed until stopping of the forward movement of the trunk (stopping time). Reaction time means ranged from 66 to 97 ms (79+/-9 ms), and no difference was found between the trials. Conversely, the mean stopping time for the first trial (468 ms) was significantly higher than for trials 3-10 (359- 371 ms), and the average EMG amplitude during the period 50-250 ms after the sudden loading was lower for the first trial. This study showed that some subjects adapted to sudden unexpected loadings of the low back through a reduction in stopping time and a progression in EMG response during the first few trials. This possible adaptation to repeated trials have been overlooked in previous studies.
Journal of Biomechanics, 2004, Vol 37, Issue 10, p. 1483-1489