To determine the optimal testing speed at which the recovery of the EMG (electromyographic) activity should be assessed during and after body weight supported (BWS) locomotor training.
Tertiary hospital, Sint Maartenskliniek, Nijmegen, The Netherlands.
Four participants with incomplete chronic SCI were included for BWS locomotor training; one AIS-C and three AIS-D (according to the ASIA (American Spinal Injury Association) Impairment Scale or AIS). All were at least 5 years after injury. The SCI participants were trained three times a week for a period of 6 weeks. They improved their locomotor function in terms of higher walking speed, less BWS and less assistance needed. To investigate which treadmill speed for EMG assessment reflects the functional improvement most adequately, all participants were assessed weekly using the same two speeds (0.5 and 1.5 km h(-1), referred to as low and high speed, respectively) for 6 weeks. The change in root mean square EMG (RMS EMG) was assessed in four leg muscles; biceps femoris, rectus femoris, gastrocnemius medialis and tibialis anterior.
The changes in RMS EMG occurred at similar phases of the step cycle for both walking conditions, but these changes were larger when the treadmill was set at a low speed (0.5 km h(-1)).
Improvement in gait is feasible with BWS treadmill training even long after injury. The EMG changes after treadmill training are more optimally expressed using a low rather than a high testing treadmill speed.