Three-dimensional spinal motion and risk of low back injury during sheep shearing
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Sheep shearers are known to work in sustained flexed postures and have a high prevalence of low back pain (LBP). As sustained posture and spinal movement asymmetry under substantial loads are known risk factors for back injury our aim was to describe the 3D spinal movement of shearers while working. We hypothesised that thoraco-lumbar and lumbo-sacral movement would be tri-axial, asymmetric, and task specific. Sufficient retro-reflective markers were placed on the trunk of 12 shearers to define thoraco-lumbar and lumbo-sacral 3D motion during three tasks. Thoraco-lumbar movement consistently involved flexion, left lateral flexion, and right rotation. Lumbo-sacral movement consistently involved right lateral flexion in flexion with minimal rotation. Shearers therefore work in sustained spinal flexion where concurrent, asymmetric spinal movements into both lateral flexion and rotation occur. These asymmetric movements combined with repetitive loading may be risk factors leading to the high incidence of LBP in this occupational group.