Flat Back

Last Updated: June 30, 2019

Definition - What does Flat Back mean?

Flat back, also called flat back syndrome, is a medical deformity in which the lordotic curve of the spine develops an unnatural flat position causing the upper body to tilt forward outside the center of gravity, forcing biomechanical stress on muscles and soft connective tissue. The flat back syndrome presents etiological implications attributable to ankylosing spondylitis, degenerative disc disease, and vertebral compression fractures, presenting misalignment of the natural S-shaped curvature of the spine.

WorkplaceTesting explains Flat Back

The spine is capable of the multidirectional range of motion (ROM) within the axial planes of the body, but flat back syndrome induces muscle fatigue and chronic pain to the extent that it creates an asymmetrical posture from attempts to maintain an erect posture. The interdependent functionality of the cervical, lumbar, and thoracic segments of the spine helps distribute the body’s weight proportionately against gravity to maximize flexibility, stability, and strength when performing regular tasks. Initially, the flat back syndrome was an epiphenomenon that occurred following surgical procedures that employ Harrington rods, a device for straightening the curvature of the spine in patients with scoliosis.

From the outset, Harrington rods were an effective treatment solution for spinal alignment; however, many patients begin experiencing degeneration of the discs in the lumbar region, incidentally compounding the effort to sustain proper carriage of the body. A physician will garner medical history documentation combined with X-ray imaging to examine the structural integrity of the spine to decide on the necessary therapeutic intervention. Following a diagnosis of flat back syndrome, the right treatment alternative will be contingent on the severity of the patient’s condition, which can involve a consistent exercise regimen, physical therapy sessions, and spinal manipulation to alleviate symptoms.

In the workplace, a high percentage of musculoskeletal injuries remain a drain on the economic purse for employers due to worker's compensation costs, often a reflection of current ergonomic measures in place to foster health and safety guidelines. Employees with a flat back should ensure they follow the correct postural alignment of the spine fundamentals where the head is parallel with the hips coinciding to the midline axis of the body to accommodate biomechanical movements.

This definition was written in the context of Ergonomics
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