Methods of Muscle Activation Onset Timing Recorded During Spinal Manipulation

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The purpose of this study was to determine electromyographic threshold parameters that most reliably characterize the muscular response to spinal manipulation and compare 2 methods that detect muscle activity onset delay: the double-threshold method and cross-correlation method.


Surface and indwelling electromyography were recorded during lumbar side-lying manipulations in 17 asymptomatic participants. Muscle activity onset delays in relation to the thrusting force were compared across methods and muscles using a generalized linear model.


The threshold combinations that resulted in the lowest Detection Failures were the “8 SD–0 milliseconds” threshold (Detection Failures = 8) and the “8 SD–10 milliseconds” threshold (Detection Failures = 9). The average muscle activity onset delay for the double-threshold method across all participants was 149 ± 152 milliseconds for the multifidus and 252 ± 204 milliseconds for the erector spinae. The average onset delay for the cross-correlation method was 26 ± 101 for the multifidus and 67 ± 116 for the erector spinae. There were no statistical interactions, and a main effect of method demonstrated that the delays were higher when using the double-threshold method compared with cross-correlation.


The threshold parameters that best characterized activity onset delays were an 8-SD amplitude and a 10-millisecond duration threshold. The double-threshold method correlated well with visual supervision of muscle activity. The cross-correlation method provides several advantages in signal processing; however, supervision was required for some results, negating this advantage. These results help standardize methods when recording neuromuscular responses of spinal manipulation and improve comparisons within and across investigations.

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