Spinally generated electromyographic oscillations and spasms in a low-thoracic complete paraplegic

Mov Disord. 2003 Jan;18(1):101-6. doi: 10.1002/mds.10298.


We have measured some oscillatory properties of severe lower limb spasms experienced by a low-thoracic complete paraplegic during assisted standing. Electromyograms (EMG) were recorded from the leg muscles while the patient stood passively in a standing frame. The patient also stood using functional electrical stimulation (FES) while ground and handle reaction force vectors were measured together with EMG activity. During passive standing, spasms appeared simultaneously in all leg muscle groups on one side. The interval between spasms varied between 3 and 30 seconds. Within the spasms, there was a tendency of repetitive grouped discharge of motor units as well as a strong 10-Hz component in the EMG that was coherent across ipsilateral muscle groups. Thus, the spasms were inherently oscillatory. During FES-assisted standing, clinically similar spasms were observed. However, the interspasm interval became relatively fixed at around 16 seconds, which may indicate entraining of the spasm cycle by FES. There are similarities between this patient's spasms and the pathological motor activities seen in other movement disorders that may also be of spinal origin.

Publication types

  • Case Reports
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Biological Clocks / physiology
  • Electric Stimulation
  • Humans
  • Leg / innervation
  • Male
  • Motor Neurons / physiology
  • Muscle, Skeletal / innervation*
  • Paraplegia / diagnosis
  • Paraplegia / physiopathology*
  • Signal Processing, Computer-Assisted
  • Spasm / diagnosis
  • Spasm / physiopathology*
  • Synaptic Transmission / physiology
  • Weight-Bearing / physiology*