European Journal of Applied Physiology

, Volume 111, Issue 8, pp 1725–1735

Effects of static contraction and cold stimulation on cardiovascular autonomic indices, trapezius blood flow and muscle activity in chronic neck–shoulder pain


    • Centre for Musculoskeletal ResearchUniversity of Gävle
    • Department of Public Health and Caring SciencesUppsala University
  • Lars-Göran Lindberg
    • Department of Biomedical EngineeringLinköping University
  • Bengt B. Arnetz
    • Department of Family Medicine and Public Health Sciences, Division of Occupational and Environmental HealthWayne State University
    • Department of Public Health and Caring SciencesUppsala University
  • Eugene Lyskov
    • Centre for Musculoskeletal ResearchUniversity of Gävle
Original Article

DOI: 10.1007/s00421-010-1813-z

Cite this article as:
Hallman, D.M., Lindberg, L., Arnetz, B.B. et al. Eur J Appl Physiol (2011) 111: 1725. doi:10.1007/s00421-010-1813-z


The aim of the present study was to investigate reactions in trapezius muscle blood flow (MBF), muscle activity, heart rate variability (HRV) and systemic blood pressure (BP) to autonomic tests in subjects with chronic neck–shoulder pain and healthy controls. Changes in muscle activity and blood flow due to stress and unfavourable muscle loads are known underlying factors of work-related muscle pain. Aberration of the autonomic nervous system (ANS) is considered a possible mechanism. In the present study, participants (n = 23 Pain, n = 22 Control) performed autonomic tests which included a resting condition, static hand grip test (HGT) at 30% of maximal voluntary contraction, a cold pressor test (CPT) and a deep breathing test (DBT). HRV was analysed in time and frequency domains. MBF and muscle activity were recorded from the upper trapezius muscles using photoplethysmography and electromyography (EMG). The pain group showed reduced low frequency-HRV (LF) and SDNN during rest, as well as a blunted BP response and increased LF-HRV during HGT (∆systolic 22 mm Hg; ∆LF(nu) 27%) compared with controls (∆systolic 27; ∆LF(nu) 6%). Locally, the pain group had attenuated trapezius MBF in response to HGT (Pain 122% Control 140%) with elevated trapezius EMG following HGT and during CPT. In conclusion, only HGT showed differences between groups in systemic BP and HRV and alterations in local trapezius MBF and EMG in the pain group. Findings support the hypothesis of ANS involvement at systemic and local levels in chronic neck–shoulder pain.


Muscle painSympatheticHeart rate variabilityPPGElectromyography

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2011