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Carrying loads and postural sway in standing: The effect of load placement and magnitude

May 23, 2013
Abstract. This study investigated the effect that load magnitude, load location, and the dimensions that the base of support have on postural sway in standing while wearing a backpack, single strapped bag, briefcase, or purse. Subjects were instructed to carry a load of 10% or 20% of their body weight with either their feet spaced shoulder width apart or together for a period of 45 seconds. Medial/lateral and anterior/posterior center of pressure (COP) displacement and COP velocity were calculated. Overall, it was found that an increase in load magnitude produced an increase in postural sway and velocity of COP. In addition, a large increase in the medial/lateral COP velocity was observed when subjects carried a briefcase, single strapped bag, or purse. Additionally, a larger COP sway was recorded in conditions of standing with decreased base of support (feet together). These findings suggest the importance of considering the way we carry loads in order not only to place less strain on the body and to minimize our efforts, but to optimize postural control as well.

Concluding comments
The study demonstrated that the load magnitude, its location, and the dimensions of the base of support are
important determinants of standing balance. The stud-ied experimental conditions involved methods of carry-
ing loads in standing that prove to be functional in daily life, as in waiting in line or for a bus. The information
obtained from this study could assist health care profes-sionals, particularly physical therapists, educate their
patients on proper load carriage in order to minimize the demands placed on their body in an effort to main-
tain efficient postural control and better overall health. On the other hand, while the study provides new in-
formation on how postural sway changes with changes in the way we carry loads, obtaining kinematic data in
future studies would provide a better understanding of how we carry loads.

Zultowski I, Aruin A. Carrying loads and postural sway in standing: The effect of load placement and magnitude. Work-a Journal of Prevention Assessment & Rehabilitation. 2008 2008;30(4):359-68. PubMed PMID: WOS:000258695100004.


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