Research: DURKIN and colleagues,

Listed in Issue 127


DURKIN and colleagues, Department of Kinesiology, Faculty of Applied Health Sciences, University of Waterloo 200 University Avenue West, Waterloo, ON, N2L 3G1, Canada, have investigated the effects of long driving times on low back pain and its causes.


An increase in time spent seated in the car has been correlated with a greater risk of low back pain and absence from work. The aim of this study was to examine the effects of three types of lumbar massage units on seating comfort, muscle fatigue, muscle oxygenation, muscle blood flow and driving performance during a 1 h simulated driving task.


Electromyographic signals were recorded from the right and left thoracic and lumbar erector spinae musculature. Average EMG, mean power frequency, gaps and amplitude probability distribution function parameters were analyzed from the three massage seats and compared to a control seat. Near infrared spectroscopy and skin temperature from the right thoracic and lumbar erector spinae were used as an indication of muscle oxygenation and blood flow throughout the driving task. Ratings of perceived discomfort were used to assess driver discomfort, and driving performance was assessed by calculating mean lap times for the duration of each driving trial.


The results showed statistically significant increases in skin temperature compared with the control seat after 60 min of driving. Average EMG and mean power frequency measures showed no significant differences between the seats. Gaps and amplitude probability distribution function analyses revealed greater rest times and lower activation levels, respectively, with the control seat, which could result in increased loading of passive structures.


This study demonstrated the beneficial effects of lumbar massage systems in increasing muscle blood flow and oxygenation.


Durkin JL, Harvey A, Hughson RL, Callaghan JP. The effects of lumbar massage on muscle fatigue, muscle oxygenation, low back discomfort, and driver performance during prolonged driving. Ergonomics 49 (1): 28-44, Jan 15, 2006.


Back pain among drivers is extremely prevalent. The above research demonstrating beneficial effects of lumbar massage systems could help many people achieve relief from back pain while driving.

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