Altered muscle recruitment patterns during isometric shoulder abduction in individuals with chronic upper trapezius pain: a cross sectional study

Hyun A. Kim, Oh Yun Kwon, Chung Hwi Yi, Hye Seon Jeon, Woochol Joseph Choi, Jong Hyuck Weon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Upper trapezius (UT) pain with myofascial trigger points (MTrPs) can affect movement at the glenohumeral joint as well as at the scapulothoracic joint. The investigation of muscle recruitment patterns can discern motor control strategies. The purpose of this study was to compare shoulder muscle recruitment patterns and muscle activity according to various loads between individuals with and without chronic UT pain. Methods: In this cross-sectional study, twenty-four participants that had UT pain with MTrPs and sex, age, body weight matched 24 controls with no UT pain were recruited. Surface EMG electrodes were attached to the UT, the serratus anterior (SA), the lower trapezius (LT) and the middle deltoid (MD). All participants performed isometric shoulder abduction with a load of 25%, 50%, or 75% of the maximum strength at 60° of shoulder abduction. The EMG activity, the activity ratio (SA/UT, LT/UT, MD/UT), and the relative contribution of each muscle activity were calculated. Results: MD activity was significantly decreased in the UT pain group compared to that in the control group (p < 0.05). The EMG activity ratio of SA/UT (p < 0.025) and the relative contribution of SA activity to shoulder abduction (p < 0.05) were significantly greater in the UT pain group than in the control group in the 25% loading condition. Conclusion: The results of present study showed that UT pain with MTrPs may increase the relative contribution of SA activity and decrease MD activity at low loads. Altered recruitment patterns of scapular upward rotators can be altered in the proper scapular position, which results in decreased MD activity. Clinicians should consider altered recruitment patterns when managing UT pain. Trial registration: Clinical Research Information Service: Clinical Research Information Service (KCT0007370; 08/06/2022).

Original languageEnglish
Article number1131
JournalBMC Musculoskeletal Disorders
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2022 Dec

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors acknowledge financial and administrative support provided by the Brain Korea 21 Program (grant number: 2016-51-0009), sponsored by the Korean Research Foundation.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022, The Author(s).

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Rheumatology
  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine


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