Computer aided modelling of the human spine

The human spine is the main structure to support human body weight and external loads, to allow the torso to reach to a variety of positions and to protect the spinal nervous system. Lumbar back pain and disorders may be related to spinal curvature and disc pressure, and it is an ultimate objective of the work reported here to include consideration of these issues in computer aided ergonomics design systems for evaluating a wide range of situations including manual handling and car seat design. Several methods from structural analysis have previously been used to model the human spine, principally lever and beam structures, but these have frequently shown discrepancies when compared with experimental data. As an alternative, an arch representation for the spine is considered here and allows the establishment of a criterion for the failure of the spine that may be useful in determining absolute maximum loading conditions. However, the main interest is in submaximal loading conditions where damage or discomfort are the concerns rather than fracture. It is proposed that the location of the thrust line in relation to the centre-line of the spine is a useful predictor, and optimization techniques have been developed to find the ‘best-fitting’ thrust line for the statically indeterminate structure. Further work is concerned with adding muscle and ligament forces to the loading system of the model, extension of the two-dimensional model into three dimensions, validation against experimental data and integration with the SAMMIE computer aided ergonomics design system.