FLEXION-RELAXATION PHENOMENON IN THE BACK MUSCLES: A Comparative Study Between Healthy Subjects and Patients with Chronic Low Back Pain

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Abstract

ABSTRACT

At a certain position of trunk flexion, there is a sudden onset of electrical silence in back muscles. This is called “flexion-relaxation (F-R) phenomenon.” The goals of this study were (1) to evaluate the relationship between flexion angle and activity of back muscles during flexion movement and (2) to determine what the difference is between healthy subjects and patients with chronic low back pain (CLBP). Twenty-five healthy subjects (13 males and 12 females; average age, 28.3 yr) and 20 patients with CLBP (12 males and 8 females; average age, 34.1 yr) volunteered for this study. The subjects were asked to flex forward maximally from the erect position and to maintain full flexion, followed by returning to the initial upright position. Flexion angle of trunk and hip was measured during the examination. Electromyographic activity of erector spinae was also monitored simultaneously. F-R phenomenon was observed in all healthy subjects before reaching the maximum flexion. Electrical silence continued even after extending the trunk began. In contrast, no patients with CLBP demonstrated F-R phenomenon. A significant difference in muscular activities of erector spinae between the groups was obtained when returning to the erect position from the maximum flexion. Moreover, time lag between trunk and hip movement was much greater in patients than in healthy subjects. This study demonstrated that neuromuscular coordination between trunk and hip could be abnormal in patients with CLBP.

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