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Is Activation Of The Back Muscles Impaired By Creep Or Muscle Fatigue?

D. Sánchez-Zuriaga, M. Adams, P. Dolan
Published 2010 · Medicine

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Study Design. Intervention study on healthy human subjects. Objective. To determine whether reflex activation of the back muscles is influenced by muscle fatigue or soft tissue creep in the spine. Summary of Background Data. Reflex contraction of the back muscles normally acts to limit spinal flexion, and hence protect the underlying spine from injury. However, repeated flexion allows bending moments on the spine to increase. Impaired reflexes as a result of fatigue or soft tissue creep may be contributing factors. Methods. A total of 15 healthy volunteers (8 females/7 males aged 23–55 years) underwent 2 interventions, on separate days: (a) sitting flexed for 1 hour to induce creep and (b) performing the Biering-Sorensen test to induce back muscle fatigue. Before and after each intervention, reflex activation of the erector spinae in response to sudden trunk flexion (initiated by a Kin-Com dynamometer) was monitored bilaterally at T10 and L3 using surface electromyography (EMG) electrodes. These recordings indicated the onset latency of reflex activation, the peak EMG, and time to peak, at each site. Measurements before and after each intervention and between muscle sites were compared using a 2-way repeated measures Analysis of Variance. Results. Spinal creep was confirmed by an increase in maximum flexion of 2.3° ± 2.5° (P = 0.003), and fatigue by a significant fall in median frequency at one or more sites. Following creep, onset latency increased from 60 ± 12 milliseconds to 96 ± 26 milliseconds (P < 0.001) but there was no change in peak EMG or time to peak EMG. Differences between sites (P = 0.004) indicated greater latencies in lumbar compared to thoracic regions, especially after creep. Muscle fatigue had no significant effects on any of the measured parameters. Conclusion. Prolonged spinal flexion can impair sensorimotor control mechanisms and reduce back muscle protection of the underlying spine. The effect is due to time-dependent “creep” in soft tissues rather than muscle fatigue.
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