Simultaneous measurement of intramuscular pressure and surface electromyography of the multifidus muscle


The anatomic proof of a spinal compartment and the clinical symptoms of compartment syndrome in patients with chronic back pain are inconsistent with the rarely met measuring criteria of intramuscular pressure (IMP). Previous studies assume a dependence of the IMP on spinal alignment (degree of lumbar spine flexion) and the degree of muscle activation. The significance of these disturbance variables in the interpretation of IMP could explain the above discrepancy. This study therefore investigates the influence of both a 30% increase in trunk flexion and alterations in muscle contraction from 100% to 60%. Sixteen healthy subjects participated in the study. The IMP and mean rectified amplitude of the multifidus surface EMG signal were determined at rest and 0° and approximately 30° of lumbar spine flexion, and they were compared. Subsequently, both parameters were measured during both 100% and 60% maximal voluntary contraction (MVC) of the muscle and then correlated. During rest and 0° flexion, the median IMP was 9.3 mmHg (range 0.0–22.5) while the median mean rectified amplitude (MRA) of the EMG signal was 1.98 µV (range 1.32–7.38). In 30° flexion, the median IMP went up to 24.3 mmHg (range 1.4–97.3) with hardly any increase in the median MRA of 2.32 µV (range 1.20–9.72). Under 60% MVC, the median IMP rose to 186.6 mmHg (range 15.4–375.4) and the median MRA to 21.02 µV (range 4.63–43.63). During 100% MVC, the median MRA increased to 34.38 µV (range 12.99–102.54) while the median IMP rose to 273.4 mmHg (range 90.4–395.1). Spearman’s rank correlation coefficient for the IMP and MRA quotients of the 100/60% MVC values was r=−0.21. To sum up, it can be said that IMP was subject to great interindividual variation in all the experiments. This parameter is highly dependent on spinal alignment and muscular activity. Further studies are needed so that the IMP can be interpreted properly when diagnosing a chronic compartment of the erector spinae muscles.

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Correspondence to Michael Kramer.

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Kramer, M., Völker, H., Weikert, E. et al. Simultaneous measurement of intramuscular pressure and surface electromyography of the multifidus muscle. Eur Spine J 13, 530–536 (2004).

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  • Chronic compartment syndrome
  • Intramuscular pressure
  • Low back pain
  • Multifidus
  • Surface electromyography