Differences in muscle activity during hand-dexterity tasks between women with arthritis and a healthy reference group

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Abstract

Background: Impaired hand function is common in patients with arthritis and it affects performance of daily activities; thus, hand exercises are recommended. There is little information on the extent to which the disease affects activation of the flexor and extensor muscles during these hand-dexterity tasks. The purpose of this study was to compare muscle activation during such tasks in subjects with arthritis and in a healthy reference group. Methods: Muscle activation was measured in m. extensor digitorium communis (EDC) and in m. flexor carpi radialis (FCR) with surface electromyography (EMG) in women with rheumatoid arthritis (RA, n = 20), hand osteoarthritis (HOA, n = 16) and in a healthy reference group (n = 20) during the performance of four daily activity tasks and four hand exercises. Maximal voluntary isometric contraction (MVIC) was measured to enable intermuscular comparisons, and muscle activation is presented as %MVIC. Results: The arthritis group used a higher %MVIC than the reference group in both FCR and EDC when cutting with a pair of scissors, pulling up a zipper and-for the EDC-also when writing with a pen and using a key (p < 0.02). The exercise "rolling dough with flat hands" required the lowest %MVIC and may be less effective in improving muscle strength. Conclusions: Women with arthritis tend to use higher levels of muscle activation in daily tasks than healthy women, and wrist extensors and flexors appear to be equally affected. It is important that hand training programs reflect real-life situations and focus also on extensor strength.

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Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Orthopedics

Keywords

  • Muscle activation, Muscle extension force, Flexion force, Female, Daily, activities
Original languageEnglish
Article number154
JournalBMC Musculoskeletal Disorders
Volume15
Publication statusPublished - 2014
Publication categoryResearch
Peer-reviewedYes

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