Experimental Brain Research

, Volume 178, Issue 3, pp 385–393 | Cite as

Experimental muscle pain results in reorganization of coordination among trapezius muscle subdivisions during repetitive shoulder flexion

  • Deborah FallaEmail author
  • Dario Farina
  • Thomas Graven-Nielsen
Research Article


The aim of the study was to examine the effect of experimental unilateral upper trapezius muscle pain on the relative activation of trapezius muscle subdivisions bilaterally during repetitive movement of the upper limb. Surface EMG signals were detected from nine healthy subjects from the upper, middle and lower divisions of trapezius during a repetitive bilateral shoulder flexion task. Measurements were performed before and after injection of 0.5 ml hypertonic (pain condition) and isotonic (control) saline into the upper division of the right trapezius muscle in two experimental sessions. On the painful side, upper trapezius showed decreased EMG amplitude (average rectified value, ARV) and lower trapezius increased ARV throughout the entire task following the injection of hypertonic saline (40.0 ± 22.2 vs. 26.0 ± 17.4 μV, and 12.5 ± 7.6 vs. 25.6 ± 14.8 μV, respectively, at the beginning of the contraction). On the side contralateral to pain, greater estimates of ARV were identified for the upper division of trapezius as the task progressed (37.4 ± 20.2 vs. 52.7 ± 28.4 μV, at the end of the contraction). Muscle fiber conduction velocity did not change with pain in all three divisions of the right trapezius muscle. The results suggest that local elicitation of nociceptive afferents in the upper division of the trapezius induces reorganization in the coordinated activity of the three subdivisions of the trapezius in repetitive dynamic tasks.


Experimental pain Trapezius muscle Muscle fiber conduction velocity Dynamic contraction Electromyography 



Deborah Falla is supported by a John J. Bonica Fellowship received from the International Association for the Study of Pain and a C. J. Martin Fellowship received from the National Health and Medical Research Council of Australia (ID 351678). This study was partly supported by the Danish Technical Research Council and by the European project “Cybernetic Manufacturing Systems” (CyberManS; contract nr. 016712).


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • Deborah Falla
    • 1
    Email author
  • Dario Farina
    • 1
  • Thomas Graven-Nielsen
    • 1
  1. 1.Center for Sensory-Motor Interaction (SMI), Department of Health Science and TechnologyAalborg UniversityAalborgDenmark

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