Low back pain and neck-shoulder pain are the most reported types of work-related musculoskeletal disorders, and performing heavy lifting at work and working with trunk rotation increase the risk of developing work-related musculoskeletal disorders. Surface electromyography (sEMG) provides information about the electrical activity of muscles. Thus it has the potential to retrieve indirect information about the physical exposure of specific muscles of workers during their actual work. This study aimed to investigate the inter-day reliability of absolute and normalized amplitude of sEMG measurements obtained during repeated standardized reference lifts.
The inter-day reliability of sEMG of the erector spinae longissimus and trapezius descendens muscles was tested during standardized box lifts. The lifts were performed with loads of 3, 15 and 30 kg from floor to table and from table to table in three conditions, i.e., forearm length (short reaching distance), ¾ arm length (long reaching distance) and forearm length with trunk rotation. Absolute and normalized root mean square (absRMS and normRMS) values were extracted. In line with the guidelines for reporting reliability and agreement studies, we reported relative and absolute reliability estimated by intra class correlation (ICC 3,K), standard error of measurement (SEM) and minimal detectable change in percent (MDC).
The ICC 3,K was higher for absRMS compared with normRMS while SEM and maximal voluntary contraction (MVC) were similar. A total of 50 out of 56, i.e., 89%, and 41 out of 56, i.e., 73%, of the lifting situations were in the range from moderate to almost perfect for absRMS and normRMS, respectively. The SEM and MDC shoved more variation in the lifting situations performed from floor to table and in the trapezius descendens muscle than in the erector spinae longissimus muscle.
This reliability study showed that maximum absRMS and normRMS were found to have a fair to substantial relative inter-day reliability for most lifts but were more reliable when lifting from table to table than from floor to table for both trapezius descendens and erector spinae muscles. The relative inter-day reliability was higher for absolute compared with normalized sEMG amplitudes while the absolute reliability was similar.