Neuromuscular Functional Assessment in Low Back Pain by Surface Electromyography (SEMG)

Luca Coppeta*, Sandro Gentili, Stefano Mugnaini, Ottavia Balbi, Stefano Massimiani, Gianluca Armieri, Antonio Pietroiusti, Andrea Magrini
Department of Biomedicine and Prevention, University of Rome, Tor Vergata, Italy

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Creative Commons License
© 2019 Coppeta et al.

open-access license: This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International Public License (CC-BY 4.0), a copy of which is available at: ( This license permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

* Address correspondence to this author at the Department of Biomedicine and Prevention, University of Rome, Tor Vergata, Italy; Tel: +39 3471080262;



Low back pain is a major occupational health issue and a leading cause of disability globally. Significant differences in Surface Electromyography (SEMG) have been reported between persons with Low Back Pain (LBP) and normal, healthy controls. Many studies reveal that when the trunk is in full flexion there is an electrical silence in back muscles referred to as “flexion-relaxation phenomenon.” It is often absent in individuals reporting LBP and particularly chronic LBP. There are several SEMG measures that describe this phenomenon.


To evaluate muscle activity in acute and chronic LBP and the usefulness of quick and reliable procedures to demonstrate abnormal electromyographic activity of the spine erector muscles.


We evaluated 40 subjects aged 25-65 years. For each participant, a clinical history regarding the presence of chronic or acute LBP was collected. Each subject was evaluated with SEMG measures of spine erector muscles during standing and prone position (for acute LBP), and flex-extension movement (for chronic LBP subjects). Superficial potential was recorded and compared between groups.


In all three procedures, differences were identified in the surface electromyographic activity between the healthy controls and the one affected by LBP.


The study of normal and pathologic electromyographic patterns could be a valid means to support in an objective way the presence/absence of acute and chronic LBP.

Keywords: SEMG, Low back pain, Occupational weight lifting, Manual handling, Fitness to work, Occupational evaluation.