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Research Article  |   September 1986
Muscle Activity in the Spinal Cord–Injured During Wheelchair Ambulation
Author Affiliations
  • Karen L. Harburn (formerly Robinson), MSc, is Assistant Professor, Department of Occupational Therapy, The University of Western Ontario, London, Ontario, Canada, N6A 5C1
  • Sandi J. Spaulding, OT(C), MSc, is Assistant Professor, Program in Occupational Therapy, School of Allied Health Professionals, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee
Article Information
Neurologic Conditions / Spinal Cord Injury / Features
Research Article   |   September 1986
Muscle Activity in the Spinal Cord–Injured During Wheelchair Ambulation
American Journal of Occupational Therapy, September 1986, Vol. 40, 629-636. doi:10.5014/ajot.40.9.629
American Journal of Occupational Therapy, September 1986, Vol. 40, 629-636. doi:10.5014/ajot.40.9.629
Abstract

Right shoulder complex muscles of nondisabled, paraplegic, and quadriplegic subjects were monitored with electromyography (EMG) during standardized wheelchair ambulation. It was shown that wheelchair ambulation required the recruitment of large amounts of available motor units in spinal cord–injured persons. Motor unit recruitments differed for the groups: recruitment was minimal for the nondisabled subjects, moderate for paraplegics, and often maximal for quadriplegics. In addition, large intra- and intergroup variabilities were found in the pattern of muscle recruitment during the standardized wheelchair ambulation movement.

The high variability shown in the muscle recruitment patterns of the normal individuals was unexpected, because the ambulation movement had been standardized as much as possible. The technique used to monitor muscle activity in this study reflects an example of how EMG can be employed to analyze activity during a movement. Using this technique one can objectively determine if assumptions about what is occurring in a muscle group during activity are correct.