Author(s): Farina D, Gazzoni M, Merletti R
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Abstract This paper focuses on methodological issues related to surface electromyographic (EMG) signal detection from the low back muscles. In particular, we analysed (1) the characteristics (in terms of propagating components) of the signals detected from these muscles; (2) the effect of electrode location on the variables extracted from surface EMG; (3) the effect of the inter-electrode distance (IED) on the same variables; (4) the possibility of assessing fatigue during high and very low force level contractions. To address these issues, we detected single differential surface EMG signals by arrays of eight electrodes from six locations on the two sides of the spine, at the levels of the first (L1), the second (L2), and the fifth (L5) lumbar vertebra. In total, 42 surface EMG channels were acquired at the same time during both high and low force, short and long duration contractions. The main results were: (1) signal quality is poor with predominance of non-travelling components; (2) as a consequence of point (1), in the majority of the cases it is not possible to reliably estimate muscle fiber conduction velocity; (3) despite the poor signal quality, it was possible to distinguish the fatigue properties of the investigated muscles and the fatigability at different contraction levels; (4) IED affects the sensitivity of surface EMG variables to electrode location and large IEDs are suggested when spectral and amplitude analysis is performed; (5) the sensitivity of surface EMG variables to changes in electrode location is on average larger than for other muscles with less complex architecture; (6) IED influences amplitude initial values and slopes, and spectral variable initial values; (7) normalized slopes for both amplitude and spectral variables are not affected by IED and, thus, are suggested for fatigue analysis at different postures or during movement, when IED may change in different conditions (in case of separated electrodes); (8) the surface EMG technique at the global level of amplitude and spectral analysis cannot be used to characterize fatigue properties of low back muscles during very low level, long duration contractions since in these cases the non-stable MU pool has a major influence on the EMG variables. These considerations clarify issues only partially investigated in past studies. The limitations indicated above are important and should be carefully discussed when presenting surface EMG results as a means for low back muscle assessment in clinical practice.
This article was published in J Electromyogr Kinesiol
and referenced in Journal of Novel Physiotherapies