Background and purpose: Activity of the trunk muscles is essential for maintaining stability of the lumbar spine because of the unstable structure of that portion of the spine. A model involving evaluation of the response of the lumbar multifidus and abdominal muscles to leg movement was developed to evaluate this function.
Subjects: To examine this function in healthy persons, 9 male and 6 female subjects (mean age = 20.6 years, SD = 2.3) with no history of low back pain were studied.
Methods: Fine-wire and surface electromyography electrodes were used to record the activity of selected trunk muscles and the prime movers for hip flexion, abduction, and extension during hip movements in each of those directions.
Results: Trunk muscle activity occurring prior to activity of the prime mover of the limb was associated with hip movement in each direction. The transversus abdominis (TrA) muscle was invariably the first muscle that was active. Although reaction time for the TrA and oblique abdominal muscles was consistent across movement directions, reaction time for the rectus abdominis and multifidus muscles varied with the direction of limb movement.
Conclusion and discussion: Results suggest that the central nervous system deals with stabilization of the spine by contraction of the abdominal and multifidus muscles in anticipation of reactive forces produced by limb movement. The TrA and oblique abdominal muscles appear to contribute to a function not related to the direction of these forces.