Content » Vol 32, Issue 3

Original report

Back muscle fatigue in healthy men and women studied by electromyography spectral parameters and subjective ratings

Elfving B, Németh G, Arvidsson I.
Department of Orthopaedics, Karolinska Hospital, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden. E-mail:
DOI: 10.2340/1650197732117123


To obtain reference data for future studies of patients with low back pain, back muscle fatigue was studied by surface electromyography at L1 and L5 lumbar levels in 55 healthy subjects exerting 80% of maximal voluntary contraction of the back extensors in a sitting position. Reference data were the initial value and rate of decrease (slope) of the median frequency during the contraction. The aim was also to study the effects of contraction time, gender differences, electrode locations and correlations with torque, age and subjective ratings. Initial median frequency was 52 Hz +/- 7.5, with no difference between electrode locations; steeper slopes were found at L5 level (-0.44%/s +/- 0.25) than at L1 (-0.36%/s +/- 0.26). No right-left differences and no gender differences were found for these parameters. A correlation was observed between slope and initial median frequency, higher for men (r approximately -0.7) than for women (r approximately -0.5). Intersubject coefficient of variation for the slope was smallest for the longest (45 seconds) recording time (60-70%), but still much higher than for the initial median frequency (14%). The torque and the subjective ratings of fatigue showed no correlation with the electromyography variables. We conclude that the same reference values can be used for men and women. Owing to the large intersubject range of the slope, the clinical use of this variable may, however, be impeded.

Lay Abstract


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