Muscle activation patterns in patients with recurrent shoulder instability


Purpose: The aim of this study is to present muscle patterns observed with the direction of instability in a series of patients presenting with recurrent shoulder instability. Materials and Methods: A retrospective review was carried out on shoulder instability cases referred for fine wire dynamic electromyography (DEMG) studies at a specialist upper limb centre between 1981 and 2003. An experienced consultant clinical neurophysiologist performed dual needle insertion into four muscles (pectoralis major (PM), latissimus dorsi (LD), anterior deltoid (AD) and infraspinatus (IS)) in shoulders that were suspected to have increased or suppressed activation of muscles that could be contributing to the instability. Raw EMG signals were obtained while subjects performed simple uniplanar movements of the shoulder. The presence or absence of muscle activation was noted and compared to clinical diagnosis and direction of instability. Results: A total of 140 (26.6%) shoulders were referred for fine wire EMG, and 131 studies were completed. Of the shoulders tested, 122 shoulders (93%) were identified as having abnormal patterns and nine had normal patterns. PM was found to be more active in 60% of shoulders presenting with anterior instability. LD was found to be more active in 81% of shoulders with anterior instability and 80% with posterior instability. AD was found to be more active in 22% of shoulders with anterior instability and 18% with posterior instability. IS was found to be inappropriately inactive in only 3% of shoulders with anterior instability but in 25% with posterior instability. Clinical assessment identified 93% of cases suspected to have muscle patterning, but the specificity of the clinical assessment was only correct in 11% of cases. Conclusion: The DEMG results suggest that increased activation of LD may play a role in both anterior and posterior shoulder instability; increased activation of PM may play a role in anterior instability.


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