Deficient muscle activation in patients with Complex Regional Pain Syndrome and abnormal hand postures: An electromyographic evaluation

P.J.M. Bank, C.E. Peper, J. Marinus, P.J. Beek, J.J. Van Hilten

    Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


    Objective: Motor abnormalities in Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS) are common and often characterized by a restricted active range of motion (AROM) and an increased resistance to passive movements, whereby the affected body part preferably adopts an abnormal posture. The objective of the present study was to obtain a better understanding of the factors that are associated with these abnormal postures and limitations of the AROM, and to investigate whether these motor impairments reflect dystonia. Methods: We evaluated characteristics of surface EMG of the flexor carpi radialis and extensor carpi radialis muscles during active maintenance of various flexion-extension postures of the wrist of the affected and unaffected side in 15 chronic CRPS patients, and in 15 healthy controls. Results: Deviant joint postures in chronic CRPS - at least in those patients with some range of active movement - were not characterized by sustained muscle contractions, and limitations of the AROM were not attributable to excessive co-contraction. Rather, the agonistic muscle and its antagonist were activated in normal proportions, albeit over a limited range. Conclusions: The AROM limitations and abnormal postures that are often observed in chronic CRPS patients are not associated with excessive muscle activity and hence do not exhibit the characteristics typical of dystonia. Significance: We hypothesize that structural alterations in skeletal muscle tissue and pain-induced adaptations of motor function may contribute to the observed motor impairments. Our findings may have important clinical implications, since commonly prescribed treatments are aimed at reducing excessive muscle contraction. © 2013 International Federation of Clinical Neurophysiology.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)2025-2035
    Number of pages11
    JournalClinical Neurophysiology
    Issue number10
    Publication statusPublished - 2013


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