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Fetal load and the evolution of lumbar lordosis in bipedal hominins

PainSci » bibliography » Whitcome et al 2007
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Tags: anatomy, barefoot, biology, back pain, random, foot, leg, limbs, pain problems, running, exercise, self-treatment, treatment, spine

Two articles on PainSci cite Whitcome 2007: 1. Complete Guide to Low Back Pain2. Your Back Is Not Out of Alignment

original abstract Abstracts here may not perfectly match originals, for a variety of technical and practical reasons. Some abstacts are truncated for my purposes here, if they are particularly long-winded and unhelpful. I occasionally add clarifying notes. And I make some minor corrections.

As predicted by Darwin, bipedal posture and locomotion are key distinguishing features of the earliest known hominins. Hominin axial skeletons show many derived adaptations for bipedalism, including an elongated lumbar region, both in the number of vertebrae and their lengths, as well as a marked posterior concavity of wedged lumbar vertebrae, known as a lordosis. The lordosis stabilizes the upper body over the lower limbs in bipeds by positioning the trunk's centre of mass (COM) above the hips. However, bipedalism poses a unique challenge to pregnant females because the changing body shape and the extra mass associated with pregnancy shift the trunk's COM anterior to the hips. Here we show that human females have evolved a derived curvature and reinforcement of the lumbar vertebrae to compensate for this bipedal obstetric load. Similarly dimorphic morphologies in fossil vertebrae of Australopithecus suggest that this adaptation to fetal load preceded the evolution of Homo.

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