Original Article

European Journal of Applied Physiology

, Volume 106, Issue 2, pp 243-251

First online:

Examining the low, high and range measures of muscle activity amplitudes in symptomatic and asymptomatic computer users performing typing and mousing tasks

  • Grace P. Y. SzetoAffiliated withDepartment of Rehabilitation Sciences, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University Email author 
  • , Leon M. StrakerAffiliated withSchool of Physiotherapy, Curtin University of Technology
  • , Peter B. O’SullivanAffiliated withSchool of Physiotherapy, Curtin University of Technology

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Past studies on work-related musculoskeletal disorders (WMSD) have reported increased median muscle activities in terms of 50th% of amplitude probability distribution function (APDF), and this was thought to be a manifestation of altered motor control—an important mechanism contributing to WMSD. The present study aimed to examine whether such altered motor control was also present in other parameters of APDF—the 10th and 90th% values, which can be considered indicators of the low and high measures of muscle activity. The difference between 10th and 90th% APDF can be considered an indicator of the variation in muscle activity amplitude (the “APDF range”). Surface electromyography was examined in female office workers as Case (n = 21) and Control (n = 18) subjects. The APDF variables were measured in cervical erector spinae (CES) and upper trapezius (UT) muscles during typing, mousing and type-and-mouse, for 20 min each. The Case Group had significantly higher CES activity in the 10th, 90th% and APDF range compared to Controls. The UT muscles showed similar trends but the between-group differences were not statistically significant. These results have demonstrated the robustness of the APDF variables as sensitive indicators of motor control variations in symptomatic subjects with musculoskeletal disorders.


Computer use EMG Trapezius WMSD Neck pain Motor control