Physical inactivity and lumbopelvic deconditioning have been linked to increased incidence of non-specific low back pain (LBP) and spinal injury in those who are exposed to microgravity (e.g. astronauts and individuals on long-duration bed rest) and in the general population. Astronauts have an increased risk of experiencing moderate to severe LBP during microgravity exposure and herniated intervertebral discs within 1 year following spaceflight. Atrophy and reduced motor control of the lumbar multifidus (LM) and transversus abdominis (TrA) muscles resulting from periods of deconditioning are linked to non-specific LBP and spinal injury risk in both post-flight astronauts and general populations. However, voluntary recruitment of these two key muscles is difficult and presents a rehabilitation challenge. This chapter reviews the concept of spinal stability as it relates to microgravity, discusses how existing exercise countermeasures used in space do not successfully maintain lumbopelvic muscle size, and introduces the functional readaptive exercise device (FRED) that shows potential to activate the LM and TrA muscles automatically and in a tonic fashion, which has relevance to rehabilitation of both astronaut and terrestrial populations.
Part of the book: Into Space