Background: Several studies have been carried out in order to investigate surface electromyography (SEMG) response on fibromyalgic (FM) patients. Some studies failed to demonstrate differences between FM patients and healthy individuals while others found differences in SEMG parameters. Different muscular region have been analyzed in FM patients and heterogeneity is also produced because of the different ways in which the SEMG technique is used. The aims of this study were to evaluate muscle modifications by SEMG analysis in FM women with respect to a sample of healthy controls and to investigate the relationships between SEMG parameters and the clinical aspects of the disease.
Methods: SEMG was recorded in 100 FM women (48.10 +/- 11.96 yr) and in 50 healthy women (48.60 +/- 11.18 yr), from the tibialis anterior and the distal part of vastus medialis muscle during isometric contraction. Initial values and rate of change of median spectral frequency (MDF) and conduction velocity (CV) of the SEMG signal were calculated.The clinical parameters "Fibromyalgia Impact Questionnaire", pain, tender points, tiredness were evaluated and the relationships between these data and the SEMG results were also studied. For the statistical analysis Mann-Whitney test, chi-square test and Spearman correlation were used.
Results: MDF absolute values and the so-called Fatigue Index (FI) were significantly lower (p < 0.001) in both muscles studied in FM patients (MDF: 93.2 microV; FI: 1.10, 0.89) with respect to healthy controls (MDF: 138.2 microV; FI: 2.41, 1.66) and a smaller reduction in the percentage values of MDF was observed in FM patients vs controls (22% vs 38%). A significant correlation was found between the SEMG parameter decrement of normalized median frequency (MNF) (%) and seriousness of FM (evaluated by means of tender points).
Conclusion: We have found some interesting muscle modifications in FM patients with respect to healthy controls, regarding MDF, CV and FI values which resulted significantly lower in FM. Patients might have a different fiber recruitment or a possible atrophy of type II fibers suggesting that they are not able to reach muscle relaxation.