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Front Hum Neurosci. 2016 Nov 14;10:576. eCollection 2016.

Influence of Lumbar Muscle Fatigue on Trunk Adaptations during Sudden External Perturbations.

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Département d'Anatomie, Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières Trois-Rivières, QC, Canada.
Département de Génie Électrique, Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières Trois-Rivières, QC, Canada.
Institut Franco-Européen de ChiropraxieIvry-Sur-Seine, France; Département des Sciences de l'Activité Physique, Université du Québec à Trois-RivièresTrois-Rivières, QC, Canada.
Département des Sciences de l'Activité Physique, Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières Trois-Rivières, QC, Canada.


Introduction: When the spine is subjected to perturbations, neuromuscular responses such as reflex muscle contractions contribute to the overall balance control and spinal stabilization mechanisms. These responses are influenced by muscle fatigue, which has been shown to trigger changes in muscle recruitment patterns. Neuromuscular adaptations, e.g., attenuation of reflex activation and/or postural oscillations following repeated unexpected external perturbations, have also been described. However, the characterization of these adaptations still remains unclear. Using high-density electromyography (EMG) may help understand how the nervous system chooses to deal with an unknown perturbation in different physiological and/or mechanical perturbation environments. Aim: To characterize trunk neuromuscular adaptations following repeated sudden external perturbations after a back muscle fatigue task using high-density EMG. Methods: Twenty-five healthy participants experienced a series of 15 sudden external perturbations before and after back muscle fatigue. Erector spinae muscle activity was recorded using high-density EMG. Trunk kinematics during perturbation trials were collected using a 3-D motion analysis system. A two-way repeated measure ANOVA was conducted to assess: (1) the adaptation effect across trials; (2) the fatigue effect; and (3) the interaction effect (fatigue × adaptation) for the baseline activity, the reflex latency, the reflex peak and trunk kinematic variables (flexion angle, velocity and time to peak velocity). Muscle activity spatial distribution before and following the fatigue task was also compared using t-tests for dependent samples. Results: An attenuation of muscle reflex peak was observed across perturbation trials before the fatigue task, but not after. The spatial distribution of muscle activity was significantly higher before the fatigue task compared to post-fatigue trials. Baseline activity showed a trend to higher values after muscle fatigue, as well as reduction through perturbation trials. Main effects of fatigue and adaptation were found for time to peak velocity. No adaptation nor fatigue effect were identified for reflex latency, flexion angle or trunk velocity. Conclusion: The results show that muscle fatigue leads to reduced spatial distribution of back muscle activity and suggest a limited ability to use across-trial redundancy to adapt EMG reflex peak and optimize spinal stabilization using retroactive control.


habituation; high-density electromyography; muscle fatigue; reflex; spinal stability

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