Estimation of Trunk Muscle Forces Using a Bio-Inspired Control Strategy Implemented in a Neuro-Osteo-Ligamentous Finite Element Model of the Lumbar Spine

Alireza Sharifzadeh-Kermani, Navid Arjmand, Gholamreza Vossoughi, Aboulfazl Shirazi-Adl, Avinash G. Patwardhan, Mohamad Parnianpour, Kinda Khalaf

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Low back pain (LBP), the leading cause of disability worldwide, remains one of the most common and challenging problems in occupational musculoskeletal disorders. The effective assessment of LBP injury risk, and the design of appropriate treatment modalities and rehabilitation protocols, require accurate estimation of the mechanical spinal loads during different activities. This study aimed to: (1) develop a novel 2D beam-column finite element control-based model of the lumbar spine and compare its predictions for muscle forces and spinal loads to those resulting from a geometrically matched equilibrium-based model; (2) test, using the foregoing control-based finite element model, the validity of the follower load (FL) concept suggested in the geometrically matched model; and (3) investigate the effect of change in the magnitude of the external load on trunk muscle activation patterns. A simple 2D continuous beam-column model of the human lumbar spine, incorporating five pairs of Hill’s muscle models, was developed in the frontal plane. Bio-inspired fuzzy neuro-controllers were used to maintain a laterally bent posture under five different external loading conditions. Muscle forces were assigned based on minimizing the kinematic error between target and actual postures, while imposing a penalty on muscular activation levels. As compared to the geometrically matched model, our control-based model predicted similar patterns for muscle forces, but at considerably lower values. Moreover, irrespective of the external loading conditions, a near (<3°) optimal FL on the spine was generated by the control-based predicted muscle forces. The variation of the muscle forces with the magnitude of the external load within the simulated range at the L1 level was found linear. This work presents a novel methodology, based on a bio-inspired control strategy, that can be used to estimate trunk muscle forces for various clinical and occupational applications toward shedding light on the ever-elusive LBP etiology.

Original languageBritish English
Article number949
JournalFrontiers in Bioengineering and Biotechnology
StatePublished - 11 Aug 2020


  • controller
  • follower load
  • model
  • muscle force
  • spine
  • stability


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