Intrinsic muscle strength and voluntary activation of both lower limbs and functional performance after stroke

Clin Physiol Funct Imaging. 2008 Jul;28(4):251-61. doi: 10.1111/j.1475-097X.2008.00802.x. Epub 2008 Jul 1.


The objective of this study was to assess the nature of muscle weakness in both legs after stroke compared with able-bodied control individuals and to examine whether there is a relationship between the degree of muscle weakness and coactivation of knee extensors and flexors as well as voluntary activation capacity of knee extensors of both paretic and non-paretic legs and indices of functional performance. Maximal voluntary isometric torques of knee extensors (MVCe) and flexors (MVCf) were determined in 14 patients (bilaterally) and 12 able-bodied controls. Simultaneous measurements were made of torque and surface EMG from agonist and antagonist muscles. Coactivation was calculated. Supramaximal triplets were evoked with electrical stimulation to estimate maximal torque capacity and degree of voluntary activation of knee extensors. MVCs, activation and coactivation parameters were correlated to scores of seven functional performance tests. MVCe, MVCf and voluntary activation were lower in paretic lower limb (PL) compared with both non-paretic lower limb (NL) and control. Besides, all these parameters of NL were also lower than control. Electrically evoked torque capacity of knee extensors of PL was about 60% of both NL and control, which were not significantly different from each other. Strong significant correlations between strength, as well as voluntary activation, and functional performance were found. Coactivation did not correlate well with functional performance. Thus, whereas for NL activation failure can explain weakness, for PL both activation failure and reduced intrinsic torque capacity are responsible for the severe weakness. Activation capacity and muscle strength correlated strongly to functional performance, while coactivation did not.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Electromyography
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Knee Joint / physiopathology
  • Lower Extremity / physiopathology*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Muscle Contraction*
  • Muscle Strength / physiology*
  • Muscle Weakness / physiopathology*
  • Muscle, Skeletal / physiology
  • Paresis / etiology
  • Paresis / physiopathology
  • Stroke / physiopathology*
  • Torque