Reliability of surface electromyography in the assessment of paraspinal muscle fatigue: an updated systematic review

J Manipulative Physiol Ther. 2014 Sep;37(7):510-21. doi: 10.1016/j.jmpt.2014.05.006.


Objective: The purpose of this study was to review the literature to determine whether surface electromyography (EMG) is a reliable tool to assess paraspinal muscle fatigue in healthy subjects and in patients with low back pain (LBP).

Methods: A literature search for the period of 2000 to 2012 was performed, using PubMed, ProQuest, Science Direct, EMBASE, OVID, CINAHL, and MEDLINE databases. Electromyography, reliability, median frequency, paraspinal muscle, endurance, low back pain, and muscle fatigue were used as keywords.

Results: The literature search yielded 178 studies using the above keywords. Twelve articles were selected according to the inclusion criteria of the study. In 7 of the 12 studies, the surface EMG was only applied in healthy subjects, and in 5 studies, the reliability of surface EMG was investigated in patients with LBP or a comparison with a control group. In all of these studies, median frequency was shown to be a reliable EMG parameter to assess paraspinal muscles fatigue. There was a wide variation among studies in terms of methodology, surface EMG parameters, electrode location, procedure, and homogeneity of the study population.

Conclusions: The results suggest that there seems to be a convincing body of evidence to support the merit of surface EMG in the assessment of paraspinal muscle fatigue in healthy subject and in patients with LBP.

Keywords: Electromyography; Low Back Pain; Muscle Fatigue; Reliability; Review; Systematic.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Electromyography / methods*
  • Humans
  • Low Back Pain / physiopathology*
  • Muscle Fatigue*
  • Paraspinal Muscles / physiopathology*
  • Reproducibility of Results