Regular carriage of heavy loads such as backpacks, satchels and mailbags results in a variety of acute medical problems and increased potential for back injury. There is a paucity of information about the specific changes in back posture that occur in response to asymmetrical loading. The purpose of this study was to examine the changes in back shape that occurred in response to asymmetrical load carriage, either on one shoulder (same-side) or across the body (cross-body), in healthy young adults. Methods: A convenience sample of 21 physiotherapy students randomly performed three trials (unloaded, same-side loaded, cross-body loaded) in standing with a 15% body load. The Microscribe 3DX digitiser (Immersion Group Ltd) recorded the three dimensional coordinates of 15 Key anatomical landmarks on the back in the three conditions. Results: A one-way ANOVA with repeated measures and post-hoc tests was implemented to highlight statistical differences in the data collected (p<0.05). Significant differences were found in the x, y and z coordinates of the anatomical landmarks in the upper back between unloaded and loaded conditions. Results demonstrated significantly less impact on spinal posture from cross-body loading as compared to same-sided loading. Conclusion: This study confirms that there are significant three-dimensional changes in back shape in response to asymmetrical loading. Further work is needed to evaluate the optimal carriage type and maximal body load that results in the least spinal impact and injury potential in young adults.
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