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, 17 (5), 353-60

Examination of the Flexion Relaxation Phenomenon in Erector Spinae Muscles During Short Duration Slumped Sitting


Examination of the Flexion Relaxation Phenomenon in Erector Spinae Muscles During Short Duration Slumped Sitting

Jack P Callaghan et al. Clin Biomech (Bristol, Avon).


Objective: The purpose of this study was to examine the myoelectric activity of the erector spinae muscles of the back in order to determine if the flexion relaxation phenomenon occurs in seated forward flexion or slumped postures.

Background: The flexion relaxation phenomenon during standing forward flexion is well documented. However, flexion relaxation in seated forward flexion has not been studied. It is possible that flexion relaxation could be linked with low back pain that some individuals experience during seated work.

Methods: Twenty-two healthy subjects (11 males, 11 females) participated in the study. Surface electromyography was used to measure the level of muscle activity at the thoracic and lumbar levels of the erector spinae muscles. An electromagnetic tracking device measured the three-dimensional movement of the lumbar spine. Five trials each of standing and seated forward flexion were performed.

Results: A slumped sitting posture yielded flexion relaxation of the thoracic erector spinae muscles, whereas the lumbar erector spinae muscle group remained at relatively constant activation levels regardless of seated posture. Thoracic erector spinae silence occurred at a smaller angle of lumbar flexion during sitting than the flexion relaxation angle observed during standing flexion relaxation.

Conclusions: Since the myoelectric activity of the lumbar erector spinae did not increase, it is likely that the passive tissues of the vertebral column were loaded to support the moment at L4/L5. Ligaments contain a large number of free nerve endings which act as pain receptors and therefore could be a potential source of low back pain during seated work.

Relevance: Examination of flexion relaxation during seated postures may provide insight into the association between low back pain and seated work.

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