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Appropriately placed surface EMG electrodes reflect deep muscle activity (psoas, quadratus lumborum, abdominal wall) in the lumbar spine

Journal of Biomechanics
Publication Date
DOI: 10.1016/0021-9290(96)84547-7
  • Psoas
  • Quadratus Lumborum
  • Electromyography
  • Intramuscular Emg


Abstract This study tested the possibility of obtaining the activity of deeper muscles in the torso—specifically psoas, quadratus lumborum, external oblique, internal oblique and transverse abdominis, using surfce myoelectric electrodes. It was hypothesized that: (1) surface electrodes adequately represent the amplitude of deep muscles (specifically psoas, quadratus lumborum, external oblique, internal oblique, transverse abdominis); (2) a single surface electrode location would best represent the activation profiles of each deep muscle over a broad variety of tasks. We assumed that prediction of activation within 10% of maximum voluntary contraction (RMS difference between the surface and intramuscular channels), over the time history of the signal, was reasonable and acceptable to assist clinical interpretation of muscle activation amplitude, and ultimately for modeled estimates of muscle force. Surface electrodes were applied and intramuscular electrodes were inserted on the left side of the body in five men and three women who then performed a wide variety of flexor tasks (bent knee and straight leg situps and leg raises, curl ups), extensor tasks (including lifting barbells up to 70 kg), lateral bending tasks (standing lateral bend and horizontal lying side support), twisting tasks (standing and sitting), and internal/external hip rotation. Using the criteria of RMS difference and the coefficient of determination ( R 2) to compare surface with intramuscular myoelectric signals, the results indicated that selected surface electrodes adequately represent the amplitude of deep muscles—always within 15% RMS difference, or less with the exception of psoas where differences up to 20% were observed but only in certain maximum voluntary contraction efforts. It appears reasonable for spine modelers, and particularly clinicians, to assume well selected surface electrode locations provide a representation of these deeper muscles—as long as they recognize the magnitude of error for their particular application.

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