Many methods exist to describe coactivation between muscles. However, most methods have limited capability in the assessment of coactivation during complex dynamic tasks for multi-muscle systems such as the lumbar spine. The ability to assess coactivation is important for the understanding of neuromuscular inefficiency. In the context of this manuscript, inefficiency is defined as the effort or level of coactivation beyond what may be necessary to accomplish a task (e.g., muscle guarding during postural stabilization). The objectives of this study were to describe the development of an index to assess coactivity for the lumbar spine and test its ability to differentiate between various complex dynamic tasks.Methods
The development of the coactivation index involved the continuous agonist/antagonist classification of moment contributions for the power-producing muscles of the torso. Different tasks were employed to test the range of the index including lifting, pushing, and Valsalva.Findings
The index appeared to be sensitive to conditions where higher coactivation would be expected. These conditions of higher coactivation included tasks involving higher degrees of control. Precision placement tasks required about 20% more coactivation than tasks not requiring precision, lifting at chest height required approximately twice the coactivation as mid-thigh height, and pushing fast speeds with turning also required at least twice the level of coactivity as slow or preferred speeds.Interpretation
Overall, this novel coactivation index could be utilized to describe the neuromuscular effort in the lumbar spine for tasks requiring different degrees of postural control.