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Effects of sudden walking perturbations on neuromuscular reflex activity and three-dimensional motion of the trunk in healthy controls and back pain symptomatic subjects.

Effects of sudden walking perturbations on neuromuscular reflex activity and three-dimensional motion of the trunk in healthy controls and back pain symptomatic subjects.
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Mueller J, Engel T, Mueller S, Stoll J, Baur H, Mayer F,


Mueller J, Engel T, Mueller S, Stoll J, Baur H, Mayer F, (click to view)

Mueller J, Engel T, Mueller S, Stoll J, Baur H, Mayer F,

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PloS one 2017 03 2012(3) e0174034 doi 10.1371/journal.pone.0174034
Abstract
BACKGROUND
Back pain patients (BPP) show delayed muscle onset, increased co-contractions, and variability as response to quasi-static sudden trunk loading in comparison to healthy controls (H). However, it is unclear whether these results can validly be transferred to suddenly applied walking perturbations, an automated but more functional and complex movement pattern. There is an evident need to develop research-based strategies for the rehabilitation of back pain. Therefore, the investigation of differences in trunk stability between H and BPP in functional movements is of primary interest in order to define suitable intervention regimes. The purpose of this study was to analyse neuromuscular reflex activity as well as three-dimensional trunk kinematics between H and BPP during walking perturbations.

METHODS
Eighty H (31m/49f;29±9yrs;174±10cm;71±13kg) and 14 BPP (6m/8f;30±8yrs;171±10cm;67±14kg) walked (1m/s) on a split-belt treadmill while 15 right-sided perturbations (belt decelerating, 40m/s2, 50ms duration; 200ms after heel contact) were randomly applied. Trunk muscle activity was assessed using a 12-lead EMG set-up. Trunk kinematics were measured using a 3-segment-model consisting of 12 markers (upper thoracic (UTA), lower thoracic (LTA), lumbar area (LA)). EMG-RMS ([%],0-200ms after perturbation) was calculated and normalized to the RMS of unperturbed gait. Latency (TON;ms) and time to maximum activity (TMAX;ms) were analysed. Total motion amplitude (ROM;[°]) and mean angle (Amean;[°]) for extension-flexion, lateral flexion and rotation were calculated (whole stride cycle; 0-200ms after perturbation) for each of the three segments during unperturbed and perturbed gait. For ROM only, perturbed was normalized to unperturbed step [%] for the whole stride as well as the 200ms after perturbation. Data were analysed descriptively followed by a student´s t-test to account for group differences. Co-contraction was analyzed between ventral and dorsal muscles (V:R) as well as side right:side left ratio (Sright:Sleft). The coefficient of variation (CV;%) was calculated (EMG-RMS;ROM) to evaluate variability between the 15 perturbations for all groups. With respect to unequal distribution of participants to groups, an additional matched-group analysis was conducted. Fourteen healthy controls out of group H were sex-, age- and anthropometrically matched (group Hmatched) to the BPP.

RESULTS
No group differences were observed for EMG-RMS or CV analysis (EMG/ROM) (p>0.025). Co-contraction analysis revealed no differences for V:R and Srigth:Sleft between the groups (p>0.025). BPP showed an increased TON and TMAX, being significant for Mm. rectus abdominus (p = 0.019) and erector spinae T9/L3 (p = 0.005/p = 0.015). ROM analysis over the unperturbed stride cycle revealed no differences between groups (p>0.025). Normalization of perturbed to unperturbed step lead to significant differences for the lumbar segment (LA) in lateral flexion with BPP showing higher normalized ROM compared to Hmatched (p = 0.02). BPP showed a significant higher flexed posture (UTA (p = 0.02); LTA (p = 0.004)) during normal walking (Amean). Trunk posture (Amean) during perturbation showed higher trunk extension values in LTA segments for H/Hmatched compared to BPP (p = 0.003). Matched group (BPP vs. Hmatched) analysis did not show any systematic changes of all results between groups.

CONCLUSION
BPP present impaired muscle response times and trunk posture, especially in the sagittal and transversal planes, compared to H. This could indicate reduced trunk stability and higher loading during gait perturbations.

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