Real-time lumbosacral joint loading estimation in exoskeleton-assisted lifting conditions via electromyography-driven musculoskeletal models

A. Moya-Esteban*, G. Durandau, H. van der Kooij, M. Sartori

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)
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Lumbar joint compression forces have been linked to the development of chronic low back pain, which is specially present in occupational environments. Offline methodologies for lumbosacral joint compression force estimation are not commonly integrated in occupational or medical applications due to the highly time-consuming and complex post-processing procedures. Hence, applications such as real-time adjustment of assistive devices (i.e., back-support exoskeletons) for optimal modulation of compression forces remains unfeasible. Here, we present a real-time electromyography (EMG)-driven musculoskeletal model, capable of estimating accurate lumbosacral joint moments and plausible compression forces. Ten participants performed box-lifting tasks (5 and 15 kg) with and without the Laevo Flex back-support exoskeleton using squat and stoop lifting techniques. Lumbosacral kinematics and EMGs from abdominal and thoracolumbar muscles were used to drive, in real-time, subject-specific EMG-driven models, and estimate lumbosacral joint moments and compression forces. Real-time EMG-model derived moments showed high correlations (R2 = 0.76 - 0.83) and estimation errors below 30% with respect to reference inverse dynamic moments. Compared to unassisted lifting conditions, exoskeleton liftings showed mean lumbosacral joint moments and compression forces reductions of 11.9 - 18.7 Nm (6 - 12% of peak moment) and 300 - 450 N (5 - 10%), respectively. Our modelling framework was capable of estimating in real-time, valid lumbosacral joint moments and compression forces in line with in vivo experimental data, as well as detecting the biomechanical effects of a passive back-support exoskeleton. Our presented technology may lead to a new class of bio-protective robots in which personalized assistance profiles are provided based on subject-specific musculoskeletal variables.

Original languageEnglish
Article number111727
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of biomechanics
Early online date18 Jul 2023
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2023


  • Back-support exoskeleton
  • EMG-driven musculoskeletal modelling
  • Lumbosacral compression forces
  • Real-time
  • UT-Hybrid-D


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