High-density electromyography provides new insights into the flexion relaxation phenomenon in individuals with low back pain

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External organisations

  • University of Birmingham


Recent research using high-density electromyography (HDEMG) has provided a more precise understanding of the behaviour of the paraspinal muscles in people with low back pain (LBP); but so far, HDEMG has not been used to investigate the flexion relaxation phenomenon (FRP). To evaluate this, HDEMG signals were detected with grids of electrodes (13 × 5) placed bilaterally over the lumbar paraspinal muscles in individuals with and without LBP as they performed repetitions of full trunk flexion. The root mean square of the HDEMG signals was computed to generate the average normalized amplitude; and the spatial FRP onset was determined and expressed as percentage of trunk flexion. Smoothing spline analysis of variance models and the contrast cycle difference approach using the Bayesian interpretation were used to determine statistical inference. All pain-free controls and 64.3% of the individuals with LBP exhibited the FRP. Individuals with LBP and the FRP exhibited a delay of its onset compared to pain-free controls (significant mean difference of 13.3% of trunk flexion). They also showed reduced normalized amplitude compared to those without the FRP, but still greater than pain-free controls (significant mean difference of 27.4% and 11.6% respectively). This study provides novel insights into changes in lumbar muscle behavior in individuals with LBP.


Original languageEnglish
Article number15938
Number of pages9
JournalScientific Reports
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 4 Nov 2019