Original Article| Volume 37, ISSUE 7, P494-501, September 2014

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Quantification of the Lumbar Flexion-Relaxation Phenomenon: Comparing Outcomes of Lumbar Erector Spinae and Superficial Lumbar Multifidus in Standing Full Trunk Flexion and Slumped Sitting Postures

Published:August 07, 2014DOI:



      The purpose of this study was to identify differences in flexion-relaxation outcomes in asymptomatic participants, with respect to both flexion-relaxation phenomenon (FRP) occurrence and spinal onset angles, as a function of posture and choice of muscle being examined.


      This was a cross-sectional study in a laboratory setting. Thirty asymptomatic participants performed standing full trunk flexion and slumped sitting postures while activation levels of the lumbar erector spinae and superficial lumbar multifidus were monitored. Two thresholds were used to define whether FRP was present in each muscle and, if present, at what trunk flexion angle it occurred. These outcomes were compared descriptively between muscles and between postures.


      Most participants displayed FRP in both muscles during standing full flexion; occurrences were more variable in slumped sitting. On average, FRP during standing full flexion and slumped sitting occurred at approximately 80% and 52% of participants' maximum flexion value, respectively. Variability in the slumped sitting onset angles was greater than that in standing full flexion.


      Outcomes for FRP during standing full flexion in asymptomatic participants appeared to be more robust and were not affected by the choice of either lumbar erector spinae or superficial lumbar multifidus. Conversely, during slumped sitting, FRP occurrence varied substantially depending on choice of muscle, although onset angles were relatively consistent between muscles. Although the choice of one muscle over the other may be warranted, it may be prudent to examine both muscles during FRP investigations in sitting postures, in order to fully characterize the behavior and activation patterns of the lumbar musculature.

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