The use of surface electrodes to record infraspinatus activity is not valid at low infraspinatus activation levels

J Electromyogr Kinesiol. 2011 Feb;21(1):112-8. doi: 10.1016/j.jelekin.2010.08.007. Epub 2010 Sep 29.


Limited information is available to support the validity of using surface electrodes to record activity from infraspinatus. The aims of this study were to compare infraspinatus activity recorded using surface and intramuscular electrodes during several shoulder isometric and dynamic tasks and to establish if infraspinatus activity recorded using intramuscular electrodes is representative of whole muscle activity. Surface and intramuscular electrodes were placed over infraspinatus in nine subjects without shoulder pain. Isometric shoulder external rotation, at 0° and 90° abduction, and extension were performed at six loads. Dynamic shoulder flexion and abduction were performed at 70% maximum load. Results indicated that while surface and intramuscular electrodes record similar activation patterns when infraspinatus is moderately to highly activated (r and slope ∼ 1), only intramuscular electrodes accurately reflected low (<10%MVC) infraspinatus activity (r=0.95 ± 0.04, slope=15.6 ± 16.3). The linear relationship between the activity recorded with surface and intramuscular electrodes when infraspinatus is moderately to highly active also indicated that intramuscular recordings from infraspinatus are representative of activity in the whole muscle. To ensure validity in reporting infraspinatus activation patterns when studying functional shoulder tasks in which infraspinatus may be relatively active and inactive at different phases of these tasks, intramuscular electrodes should be used to record infraspinatus activity.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Electrodes
  • Electrodes, Implanted
  • Electromyography / methods*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Isometric Contraction / physiology*
  • Male
  • Muscle, Skeletal / physiology*
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Shoulder*
  • Young Adult