Experimental muscle pain modulates muscle activity and work performance differently during high and low precision use of a computer mouse
The aim was to investigate the influence of experimental muscle pain on performance and upper extremity muscle activity during occupational work requiring different levels of precision. Experimental muscle pain was induced by infusing hypertonic saline (0.3 ml, 5% NaCl) into the extensor carpi ulnaris (ECU) muscle. The same amount of isotonic saline was infused on a separate day to act as a control. Tasks requiring use of a computer mouse with high and low levels of precision were performed during the two sessions. Electromyographic (EMG) activity was measured from the ECU, the flexor carpi radialis (FCR) and the trapezius muscles. A group of 13 men participated in the study. Performance measured as work cycle time, cursor movements on the screen, and velocity of cursor movement were unaffected by muscle pain. The ECU muscle pain did not modulate EMG profiles of either the trapezius or FCR muscles – either during high or during low precision work. During the low precision work the painful ECU muscle showed lower EMG activity in specific phases of the work cycle (highest activity phases) compared to the control session (P < 0.05), whereas during the high precision work, experimental pain had no effect on the activity of the ECU muscle. In conclusion experimental muscle pain seems to modulate motor control differently depending on the precision level of the task. This may be of importance for our understanding of why some tasks lead to chronic musculoskeletal disorders.
Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.