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Effect of Topical Heat on Electromyographic Power Density Spectrum in Subjects with Myofascial Pain and Normal Controls: A Pilot Study

Nadler, Scott F. DO; Feinberg, Joseph H. MD; Reisman, Stanley PhD; Stitik, Todd P. MD; DePrince, Melissa L. MS; Hengehold, David MS; Weingand, Kurt PhD, DVM

American Journal of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation: November 2001 - Volume 80 - Issue 11 - p 809-815
Research Articles: Research Article
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Nadler SF, Feinberg JH, Reisman S, Stitik TP, DePrince ML, Hengehold D, Weingand K: Effect of topical heat on electromyographic power density spectrum in subjects with myofascial pain and normal controls: a pilot study. Am J Phys Med Rehabil 2001;80:809–815.

Objective To investigate the influence of superficial heat on the fatigue cascade of the upper trapezius muscle in subjects with myofascial pain and matched normal controls.

Design In a prospective randomized block crossover pilot study, eight female subjects, ages 20–35 yr, with upper trapezius muscle trigger points and eight matched female control subjects without pain were studied. Subjects performed six 100-sec shoulder shrug contractions to fatigue, with subjects randomly chosen to receive heat during the first three or last three trials. The initial median frequency and the slope of the median frequency decline were calculated from the data.

Results In the subjects with pain, the slope of the median frequency was elevated in ambient room temperature as compared with controls. There was no difference in slope of the median frequency under heated conditions. Heat application in controls before fatiguing exercise caused an increase in initial median frequency, whereas exercise before heat treatment resulted in a significantly lower initial median frequency. Subjects with myofascial pain had no significant change in initial median frequency.

Conclusions Heat seems to have a positive effect on muscle function in normal individuals when applied before exercise. Subjects with myofascial pain respond differently to exercise and heat challenge, which suggests a difference in their muscle physiology.

From the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, UMDNJ-NJ Medical School, Newark, New Jersey (SFN, TPS, MLD); the Hospital for Special Surgery, New York, New York (JHF); the New Jersey Institute of Technology, Newark, New Jersey (SR); and the Procter & Gamble Co., Cincinnati, Ohio (KW, DH).

Supported by an unrestricted research grant from The Procter & Gamble Co.

Presented at the 41st Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, Washington, DC, November 13, 1999.

All correspondence and requests for reprints should be addressed to Scott F. Nadler, DO, 90 Bergen Street, Suite 3100, Newark, NJ 07103.

© 2001 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.