Effects of postural and visual stressors on myofascial trigger point development and motor unit rotation during computer work

J Electromyogr Kinesiol. 2011 Feb;21(1):41-8. doi: 10.1016/j.jelekin.2010.04.006. Epub 2010 Jun 26.


Musculoskeletal complaint rates are high among those performing low-level static exertions (LLSEs), such as computer users. However, our understanding of the causal mechanisms is lacking. It was hypothesized that myofascial trigger point (MTrP) development might be one causal mechanism to help explain these complaints and that static postural and visual demands may be contributing factors. Therefore, the purpose of this experiment was to examine MTrP development and the behavior of multiple parts of the trapezius muscle under postural and mental stress (represented by visual stress) conditions during computer work. Twelve subjects (six male and six female) were monitored for MTrP development via expert opinion, subject self-report, and cyclic changes in EMG median frequency across fourteen spatial locations. Results showed that MTrPs developed after one hour of continuous typing, despite the stress condition. Interestingly, both the high postural and high visual stress conditions resulted in significantly fewer median frequency cycles (3.76 and 5.35 cycles, respectively), compared to the baseline low stress condition (6.26 cycles). Lastly, the MTrP location as well as locations more medial to the spine showed significantly fewer cycles than other locations. Findings suggest that MTrPs may be one causal pathway for pain during LLSEs and both postural and visual demands may play a role in muscle activation patterns, perhaps attributing to MTrP development and resultant discomfort.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Back Pain / etiology
  • Back Pain / physiopathology
  • Computer Terminals
  • Computers*
  • Electromyography
  • Female
  • Head Movements
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Muscle, Skeletal / innervation
  • Muscle, Skeletal / physiopathology*
  • Myofascial Pain Syndromes / diagnosis
  • Myofascial Pain Syndromes / etiology
  • Myofascial Pain Syndromes / physiopathology*
  • Neck Pain / etiology
  • Neck Pain / physiopathology
  • Occupational Diseases / physiopathology*
  • Pain Measurement
  • Posture / physiology*
  • Shoulder
  • Stress, Psychological / physiopathology*
  • Visual Perception / physiology*
  • Young Adult