The intrinsic shape of the human lumbar spine in the supine, standing and sitting postures: characterization using an active shape model

Judith Meakin, Jenny Gregory, Richard Malcolm Aspden, Francis Smith, Fiona Jane Gilbert

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33 Citations (Scopus)


The shape of the lumbar spine in the sagittal plane varies between individuals and as a result of postural changes but it is not known how the shape in different postures is related. Sagittal images of the lumbar spines of 24 male volunteers were acquired using a positional magnetic resonance scanner. The subjects were imaged lying supine, standing and sitting. An active shape model was used to characterize shape in terms of independent modes of variation. Two modes were identified that described the total (mode 1) and distribution (mode 2) of the curvature. The spinal shape was found to be intercorrelated between the three postures for both modes, suggesting that the lumbar spine has an element of shape that is partially maintained despite postural alterations. Mode 1 values indicated that the spine was straightest when standing and curviest when sitting. Mode 2 values indicated that the distribution in the curvature was most even when sitting and least even when lying supine. Systematic differences in the behaviour of the spine, when changing posture, were found that suggest that the shape of the spine may affect its biomechanics.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)206-211
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Anatomy
Issue number2
Early online date1 Jun 2009
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2009



  • active shape model
  • lordosis
  • lumbar spine
  • positional magnetic resonance imaging
  • posture
  • Sagittal-plane
  • Cobb technique
  • in-vivo
  • position
  • spondylolisthesis
  • degeneration
  • radiographs
  • orientation
  • alignment

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