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Clin Neurophysiol. 2006 Nov;117(11):2436-45. Epub 2006 Sep 22.

Experimental muscle pain changes the spatial distribution of upper trapezius muscle activity during sustained contraction.

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Center for Sensory-Motor Interaction (SMI), Department of Health Science and Technology, Aalborg University, Fredrik Bajers Vej 7D-3, 9220 Aalborg East, Denmark.



To investigate the effect of local excitation of nociceptive muscle afferents on the spatial distribution of muscle activity.


Surface electromyographic (EMG) signals were recorded from the upper trapezius muscle of 10 healthy volunteers with a 5 x 13 electrode grid during 90-s isometric contractions before, during, 15 and 30 min after intramuscular injection of hypertonic (painful) or isotonic (non-painful) saline. From the multi-channel EMG recordings, two-dimensional maps of root mean square and mean power frequency were obtained. The centre of gravity of the root mean square map was used to quantify global changes in the spatial distribution of muscle activity.


During sustained contractions, average root mean square increased, average mean frequency decreased and the centre of gravity moved cranially. During experimental muscle pain, compared to before injection, the average root mean square decreased and there was a caudal shift of the centre of gravity. Fifteen minutes after the painful injection the centre of gravity returned to its original position.


Short-term dynamic reorganization of the spatial distribution of muscle activity occurred in response to nociceptive afferent input.


The study furnishes an extension of the pain adaptation model indicating heterogeneous inhibition of muscle activity.

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