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Chiropractic Research Review

Assessment of Chronic LBP by Surface Electromyography

Surface electromyography (SEMG) is a noninvasive method of analysis of the degree of muscular activity and function. It may provide information relevant to chronic low back pain (CLBP) by indicating the contractile state of the lumbar skeletal muscle.

This study sought to access if SEMG could be a useful clinical tool for CLBP patients.

Electrodes were placed on the low back overlying the paraspinal muscles (L1 toL5) in 30 individuals with CLBP, and on a similar number of control subjects matched for age, gender, and body mass index. Subjects were tested standing, with no movement (static), and during flexion and extension (dynamic).

Electromyographic signals from electrodes placed in the lumbar area of 30 CLBP patients and 30 non-pain control subjects were compared and showed a statistically significant difference between the two groups. The muscle activity average values were threefold higher in CLBP patients than in controls in the static testing, and twofold higher in CLBP patients than in their controls in the dynamic testing.

This study indicates that surface electromyography assessment of the paraspinal muscle activity might be a useful objective diagnostic tool in the comprehensive evaluation of CLBP.

The authors caution that SEMG results should be controlled for the percent body fat of the patient, and that the dynamic testing presents greater variation and bias than the static testing. They also make several recommendations pertaining to the clinical utility of SEMG that require further testing in research environments.

Ambroz C, Scott A, Ambroz A, et al. Chronic low back pain assessment using surface electromyography. The Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine 2000:42(6), pp. 660-669.

Chiropractic Research Review

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