The influence of musculoskeletal pain disorders on muscle synergies—A systematic review

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Musculoskeletal (MSK) pain disorders represent a group of highly prevalent and often disabling conditions. Investigating the structure of motor variability in response to pain May reveal novel motor impairment mechanisms that May lead to enhanced management of motor dysfunction associated with MSK pain disorders. This review aims to systematically synthesize the evidence on the influence of MSK pain disorders on muscle synergies. Methods Nine electronic databases were searched using Medical Subject Headings and keywords describing pain, electromyography and synergies. Relevant characteristics of included studies were extracted and assessed for generalizability and risk of bias. Due to the significant heterogeneity, a qualitative synthesis of the results was performed. Results The search resulted in a total of 1312 hits, of which seven articles were deemed eligible. There was unclear consistency that pain reduced the number of muscle synergies. There were low consistencies of evidence that the synergy vector (W weights) and activation coefficient (C weights) differed in painful compared to asymptomatic conditions. There was a high consistency that muscle synergies were dissimilar between painful and asymptomatic conditions. Conclusions MSK pain alters the structure of variability in muscle control, although its specific nature remains unclear. Greater consistency in muscle synergy analysis May be achieved with appropriate selection of muscles assessed and ensuring consistent achievement of motor task outcomes. Synergy analysis is a promising method to reveal novel understandings of altered motor control, which May facilitate the assessment and treatment of MSK pain disorders.


Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0206885
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 5 Nov 2018