The relationship between EMG and change in thickness of transversus abdominis

J M McMeeken, I D Beith, D J Newham, P Milligan, D J Critchley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

316 Citations (Scopus)


Objective. To investigate the relationship between changes in thickness and EMG activity in the transversus abdominis muscle of healthy subjects and the reliability of ultrasound measurements using different modes and transducers. Design. Convenience sampling. Background. Chronic low back pain is associated with transversus abdominis dysfunction but EMG studies of this muscle are restricted to invasive techniques. Since the thickness of transversus abdominis changes with activity, such changes measured from ultrasound images might provide insight into this muscle's function non-invasively. In addition, little is known about the comparability of ultrasound measurements from different modes and transducers, nor the reliability of transversus abdominis measurements. Methods. In 9 healthy subjects (aged 29-52 years, four male) transversus abdominis was studied at rest and during activity (5-80% max) with simultaneous EMG and ultrasound (M mode, 5 MHz curvilinear transducer) measurements. Intra-rater reliability for thickness measurements was studied on 13 subjects using 7.5 MHz linear and 5 MHz curvilinear transducers in B and M modes. Results. Muscle thickness changes correlated well with EMG activity (P <0.001, R-2 = 0.87) and there were no significant differences between subjects (P > 0.05). Using 7.5 MHz head, the ICC for B mode was 0.989 and for M mode was 0.981 for between days reliability. The ICC for between transducer reliability was 0.817. Conclusions. Changes in thickness of transversus abdominis can be used to indicate changes in the electrical activity in this muscle.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)337 - 342
Number of pages6
JournalClinical Biomechanics
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - May 2004


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