Physiological response to submaximal isometric contractions of the paravertebral muscles

Spine (Phila Pa 1976). 1999 Nov 15;24(22):2332-8. doi: 10.1097/00007632-199911150-00008.


Study design: Brief (30-second) isometric trunk extensions at 5%, 20%, 40%, 60%, and 80% of maximal voluntary contraction (MVC) and 3 minutes of prolonged trunk extension (20% MVC) in erect position were studied in nine healthy male subjects.

Objectives: To investigate the intercorrelation between intramuscular pressure and tissue oxygenation of the paravertebral muscles during submaximal isometric contractions and further, to evaluate paravertebral electromyogram and intramuscular pressure as indicators of force development.

Summary of background data: Local physiologic responses to muscle contraction are incompletely understood.

Methods: Relative oxygenation was monitored with noninvasive near-infrared spectroscopy, intramuscular pressure was measured with a transducer-tipped catheter, and surface electromyogram was monitored at three recording sites.

Results: The root mean square amplitudes of the paravertebral electromyogram (L4, left and right; T12, right) and intramuscular pressure measured in the lumbar multifidus muscle at L4 increased with greater force development in a curvilinear manner. A significant decrease in the oxygenation of the lumbar paravertebral muscle in response to muscle contraction was found at an initial contraction level of 20% MVC. This corresponded to a paravertebral intramuscular pressure of 30-40 mm Hg. However, during prolonged trunk extension, no further decrease in tissue oxygenation was found compared with the tissue oxygenation level at the end of the brief contractions, indicating that homeostatic adjustments (mean blood pressure and heart rate) over time were sufficient to maintain paravertebral muscle oxygen levels.

Conclusion: At a threshold intramuscular pressure of 30-40 mm Hg during muscle contraction, oxygenation in the paravertebral muscles is significantly reduced. The effect of further increase in intramuscular pressure on tissue oxygenation over time may be compensated for by an increase in blood pressure and heart rate. Surface electromyogram amplitudes and intramuscular pressure can be used as indicators of paravertebral muscle force.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Electromyography
  • Humans
  • Isometric Contraction / physiology*
  • Lumbosacral Region
  • Male
  • Muscle, Skeletal / physiology*
  • Oxygen Consumption / physiology
  • Pressure
  • Spectroscopy, Near-Infrared
  • Transducers, Pressure