Variation in the spatial distribution of erector spinae activity during a lumbar endurance task in people with low back pain

Andy Sanderson, Eduardo Martinez-Valdes, Nicola R. Heneghan, Carlos Murillo, Alison Rushton, Deborah Falla*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)
136 Downloads (Pure)


This study aimed to investigate the spatial distribution and redistribution of lumbar erector spinae (ES) activity during a lumbar extension endurance task in pain-free participants and how this is modified in people with low back pain (LBP). High density surface electromyography (HDEMG) was recorded using 13 × 5 electrode grids placed over the lumbar ES in 13 LBP and 13 control participants while completing an Ito test to task failure. The root mean square of the HDEMG signals was computed, a topographical map of the EMG amplitude generated and the centre of the activity (centroid) determined throughout the task. The centroid of the EMG amplitude map was systematically more cranial (F = 6.09, P = 0.022) for the LBP participants compared with the control subjects. Regression analysis showed that the extent of redistribution of ES activity was associated with longer endurance. These results show that LBP participants utilised a different motor strategy to perform the endurance task, characterised by greater activation of more cranial regions of the ES and less redistribution of ES activity throughout the task. This study provides new insight into the functional activation of the lumbar ES and how it is modified when people have pain.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)532-542
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Anatomy
Issue number4
Early online date21 Jan 2019
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2019

Bibliographical note

© 2019 Anatomical Society.


  • erector spinae
  • functional muscle activity
  • high density EMG
  • Ito test

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anatomy
  • Histology
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Molecular Biology
  • Developmental Biology
  • Cell Biology


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