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PLoS One



Reduced muscle activity variability in lumbar extensor muscles during sustained sitting in individuals with chronic low back pain.


The purpose of this study was to investigate muscle activity variability within and between the right and left side of lumbar muscles in patients with chronic low back pain (cLBP) compared to healthy controls (HCs) during sustained quiet sitting. Surface electromyographic (EMG) signals were collected bilaterally from the lumbar muscles with 2 high density surface EMG grids of 9×14 electrodes. Root mean square values (RMS) over 1-sec epochs of all bipolar EMG leadings were obtained. Between-sides alternating activation was computed, as well as temporal- and spatial variability within the electrode grids through the coefficient of variation and correlations between RMS distributions. The subjective influence of sitting was evaluated by the rating of perceived exertion and the amount of LBP on a numeric pain rating scale. Compared to HCs, the patients with cLBP had lower temporal (p = 0.03) and similar spatial muscle activity variability during sitting, despite a more variable sitting position. This did not result in increased muscle fatigue indicated by EMG, but the patients with cLBP reported higher levels of RPE during- and more LBP after the sitting and as a consequence ended the sitting earlier than HCs (p < 0.01). Present findings lend support to the presence of less tolerance for low-level static muscle load in patients with cLBP.