Treadmills are often used as rehabilitation devices to improve gait in Parkinson's disease (PD). Kinematic differences between treadmill and overground gait have been reported. However, electromyographic (EMG) patterns during treadmill and overground walking have not been systematically compared. The aim of this study was to assess the effects of treadmill gait on the magnitude of the EMG activity of the lower limb muscles in PD. We measured EMG activity of the tibialis anterior, gastrocnemius medialis, vastus lateralis, and biceps femoris of nine individuals with PD and nine healthy matched controls. Comparisons between walking overground with walking on a treadmill and with walking with a treadmill simulator were carried out. The treadmill simulator is a device that simulates treadmill conditions with the exception of the belt. Our results have shown that treadmill walking is associated with several EMG differences compared with overground walking. The key finding of the study is that coactivation of the thigh muscles was significantly decreased (37%; p = 0.008) in PD subjects when walking on the treadmill in comparison with overground walking. The changes observed in the coactivation level may be related to the belt movement, since no changes were reported during walking with the treadmill simulator. Understanding the differences between treadmill and overground gait as well as the mechanisms that result in improvement of gait disturbances may optimize rehabilitative protocols for patients with PD.
Keywords: Parkinson; coactivation; electromyography; gait.