Low back pain research using surface electromyography (SEMG) technology

Low back pain research using surface electromyography (SEMG) technology may lead to the development of a valid and reliable tool to prevent the condition, it was announced today.

SEMG is a clinical tool used in the treatment of musculoskeletal pain and some neurological disorders. Mr Ken Kamei, a PhD researcher at RMIT University from Greensborough, is examining the usefulness of SEMG to assess the functional status of muscles of the low back that are used to support and protect the spine.

Researchers believe poor muscle function is associated with an increased risk of injury and damage to spinal structures resulting in low back pain. This occurs because these back muscles no longer provide adequate support to spinal joints during activities of normal daily living. Mr Kamei is testing the use of SEMG on patients performing postures that mirror the activities of normal daily living.

"For many years, scientists and medical specialists have been exploring the use of SEMG to find clues to effectively and efficiently investigate differences between individuals suffering recurrent episodes of acute low back pain and those that don’t,” Mr Kamei said.

“We hope that our current work will allow us to investigate this.”

"For the first time, Mr Kamei said, “we have found which simple static postures and electrode placements may be confidently used to investigate the discriminative power of SEMG between non-low back pain and mechanical low back pain groups."

Mr Kamei and his colleagues Dr Barbara Polus and Dr Dinesh Kant Kumar, of the Department of Complementary Medicine at RMIT University, are using SEMG equipment, acquired through a research grant from the Australian Spinal Research Foundation (ASRF), to study whether SEMG is a sensitive, simple and reliable tool that can measure the activity of low back muscles during simple static postures that we all assume in our daily lives.

"The implications of the study is that SEMG can provide beneficial information to clinicians for monitoring low back pain," Mr Kamei said.

The findings of Mr Kamei's study, ‘The reliability and validity of SEMG to study activity patterns of lumbar paraspinal muscles during the execution of simple static postures’, will be officially announced at the fifth Interdisciplinary World Congress on Low Back & Pelvic Pain, in Melbourne from 10-13 November.

Over 2,000 delegates from around the globe are expected to attend this major biannual conference, held for the first time in Australia.

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