Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department

Biomedical Engineering

Major Professor

William E. Lee, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Georgios Stylianides, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Eric Coris, M.D.

Committee Member

Edward Quigley, Ph.D.


Biomechanics, Accelerometer, Spine, Survey, Back pain


80% of the American population experiences back pain and it is the most common cause of limited activity in people of age 45 and under. Determining the reasons for back pain and developing new ways to treat it have been extensively researched over the past decade. However, very little research has been done on low back pain of amputees.

There are four million existing amputees living in America and 250,000 people become new amputees each year. 70% of this group is lower limb amputees and a large number use a prosthesis of some kind to aid in the functions of daily living (Amputation and Limb Deficiency). Not all amputees use a prosthesis because of pain involved, aesthetics, and cost.

In order to increase the use of prosthetics among amputees, the reasons why they do not use them must be fully understood. With this knowledge better prosthetic designs can be created. The purpose of this study is to first determine the prevalence of back pain among lower limb amputees who use a prosthesis and then to quantify the accelerations in the spine of this group and compare it to subjects who are not amputees. The findings of this study will be used to determine if back pain is a common complaint, if it interferes with daily activities, and if the use of a prosthesis causes abnormal loads in the spine of amputees. A cross-sectional descriptive survey was created and distributed to lower limb amputees who use a prosthesis and to a control group. In addition to the survey, several subjects were recruited to wear an accelerometer located over the L5-S1 vertebrae and walk at several speeds down a pathway. A maximum acceleration was determined for each step as well as the difference in acceleration between opposing legs. Also measured was the effect of a leg length discrepancy (LLD) on accelerations and back pain.

As a result of this research it was found that a high percentage of amputees experience back pain and the prevalence is higher than that of controls. It has shown that there is a difference between the acceleration patterns of amputees and non-amputees, but further research is needed to show that this difference is what causes the higher prevalence of back pain. The trend of side dominance and its increase with increased walking speed for amputees has been shown as well as a general population trend of increased acceleration of the spine with increased speed. In relation to walking speed, the study has also shown that the perception of speed among amputees is slower than that of controls. This study has also supported the notion that a difference in leg length could cause low back pain.