Experimental Muscle Pain Challenges the Postural Stability During Quiet Stance and Unexpected Posture Perturbation


      Musculoskeletal pain impairs postural control and stability. Nine subjects stood as quietly as possible on a moveable force platform before, during, and after experimental pain in the right leg muscles. A moveable force platform was used to measure the center of pressure and provided unexpected perturbations. Lower limb muscle activity, joint angles, and foot pressure distributions were measured. Hypertonic saline was used to induce pain in the vastus lateralis, vastus medialis, or biceps femoris muscle of the right leg. Compared to baseline and control sessions, pain in the knee extensor muscles during quiet standing evoked: 1) larger sway area, greater medial-lateral center of pressure displacement and higher speed (P < .05); 2) increased sway displacement in the anterior-posterior direction (P < .05); and 3) increased electromyography (EMG) activity for left tibialis anterior and left erector spinae muscles (P < .05). Pain provoked longer time to return to an equilibrium posture after forward EMG activity for, and pain in vastus medialis muscle decreased the time for the maximum hip flexion during this perturbation (P < .05). These results show that muscle pain impairs postural stability during quiet standing and after unexpected perturbation, which suggest that people suffering from leg muscle pain are more vulnerable to falls.


      This article presents the acute responses to leg muscle pain on the postural control. This measure could potentially help clinicians who seek to assess how pain responses may contribute to patient’s postural control and stability during quiet standing and after recovering from unexpected perturbations.

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