Balance recovery is compromised and trunk muscle activity is increased in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease

Gait Posture. 2016 Jan;43:101-7. doi: 10.1016/j.gaitpost.2015.09.004. Epub 2015 Sep 11.


Increased respiration in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) requires greater abdominal muscle activation, which may impact on contribution of the trunk to postural control. This study aimed to determine whether recovery of balance from postural perturbations and trunk muscle activity differs in people with and without COPD before and/or after exercise. Electromyography (EMG) of the obliquus internus (OI) and externus (OE) abdominis, rectus abdominis (RA), erector spinae (ES) and deltoid muscles was recorded with surface electrodes during rapid shoulder flexion and extension. Time taken to regain baseline centre of pressure velocity (vCOP) and the number of postural adjustments following arm movement was calculated from force plate data. Time to recover balance in the direction of postural disturbance (anteroposterior vCOP) was longer in COPD, particularly more severe COPD, than controls. Mediolateral vCOP (perpendicular to the perturbation) and the number of postural adjustments did not differ between groups, but people with more severe COPD were less successful at returning their mediolateral vCOP to baseline. Abdominal muscle EMG was similar between groups, but controls had greater ES EMG during arm movements. Individuals with more severe COPD had greater OE and RA EMG both before and during arm movement compared to those with less severe COPD and controls. Following exercise, OE and ES EMG increased in people with less severe COPD. This study shows that severe COPD is associated with impaired ability to recover balance and greater trunk muscle activity during postural challenges. Augmented trunk muscle activity may limit the contribution of trunk movements to balance recovery and could contribute to increased falls risk.

Keywords: Balance; Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease; Electromyography; Falls; Postural control.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Electromyography
  • Exercise / physiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Muscle, Skeletal / physiology*
  • Postural Balance / physiology*
  • Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive / physiopathology*
  • Random Allocation
  • Torso / physiology*