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Appl Ergon. 2010 Oct;41(6):787-95. doi: 10.1016/j.apergo.2010.01.005. Epub 2010 Jan 29.

The impact of a sloped surface on low back pain during prolonged standing work: a biomechanical analysis.

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  • 1Regis University, School of Physical Therapy, Denver, CO 80221, USA.



Occupations that require prolonged periods of standing have been associated with increased reports of musculoskeletal disorders including low back pain. Previous work has utilized a prospective design of functionally inducing low back pain in previously asymptomatic individuals during a prolonged standing task. Increased trunk and gluteus medius muscle co-activation has been found in previously asymptomatic individuals who developed pain during standing compared with individuals who did not develop pain.


The purpose of this study was to investigate the subjective and biomechanical responses of known pain developers and non-pain developers (previously determined during level standing) when exposed to the same prolonged standing task protocol completed while standing on a +/-16 degrees sloped surface.


Overall low back pain scores were reduced by 59.4% for the pain development group, identified in level standing, when using the sloped surface. There was a marked decrease in the co-activation of the bilateral gluteus medius muscles in the known pain developers when standing on the sloped surface compared with level standing. However the non-pain developer group responded in the opposite direction by having an increase in the co-activation of these muscles, although they did not have a commensurate increase in low back pain. There were changes in both the postural and joint-loading variables examined. These changes were minimal and in most cases the sloped surface produced responses that bracketed the postures and loading magnitudes found in level standing depending on whether the participant was standing on the +16 degrees or -16 degrees surface.


The sloped surface resulted in decreased subjective low back pain during prolonged standing. There were also associated biomechanical changes resulting from using a sloped surface during prolonged standing. These positive findings were supported in an exit survey satisfaction rating with 87.5% indicating that they would use the sloped surface if they were in an occupational setting that required prolonged standing work.

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