Segmental Kinematic Coupling of the Human Spinal Column during Locomotion

Zhao, G R and Ren, L and Ren, L Q and Hutchinson, J R and Tian, L M and Dai, J S (2008) Segmental Kinematic Coupling of the Human Spinal Column during Locomotion. Journal of Bionic Engineering, 5 (4). pp. 328-334.

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Abstract

As one of the most important daily motor activities, human locomotion has been investigated intensively in recent decades. The locomotor functions and mechanics of human lower limbs have become relatively well understood. However, so far our understanding of the motions and functional contributions of the human spine during locomotion is still very poor and simultaneous in-vivo limb and spinal column motion data are scarce. The objective of this study is to investigate the delicate in-vivo kinematic coupling between different functional regions of the human spinal column during locomotion as a stepping stone to explore the locomotor function of the human spine complex. A novel infrared reflective marker cluster system was constructed using stereophotogrammetry techniques to record the 3D in-vivo geometric shape of the spinal Column and the segmental position and orientation of each functional spinal region simultaneously. Gait measurements of normal walking were conducted. The preliminary results show that the spinal column shape changes periodically in the frontal plane during locomotion. The segmental motions of different spinal functional regions appear to be strongly coupled, indicating some synergistic strategy may be employed by the human spinal column to facilitate locomotion. In contrast to traditional medical imaging-based methods, the proposed technique can be used to investigate the dynamic characteristics of the spinal column, hence providing more insight into the functional biomechanics of the human spine.