Pregnancy and childbirth are associated with lumbopelvic pain and instability. Fatigability of the lumbopelvic stabilizing muscles after childbirth is unknown, and no clinical tests exist to assess this important metric of muscle function.
To compare fatigability of the lumbopelvic stabilizing muscles in postpartum and nulligravid (control) women using the Active Straight Leg Raise (ASLR) Fatigue Task, and to determine whether fatigability is associated with interrecti distance (IRD), physical function, and pain/disability.
A longitudinal case-control study.
Twenty-nine nulligravid (25.4 ± 9.1 years) and 31 postpartum women (31.4 ± 5.2 years; vaginal delivery n = 18) were tested at 2 time points, 16 weeks apart (postpartum women tested at 8-10 and 24-26 weeks postpartum). Muscular function was assessed with manual muscle testing (MMT), the ASLR test, and a new ASLR Fatigue Task. Other measures included IRD, rectus abdominis thickness, physical activity, and 6-minute walk distance.
Postpartum women were 23% more fatigable (P = .028) and were weaker (MMT) (P < .001) than controls up to 26 weeks postpartum. The ASLR Fatigue Task (time-to-failure) was associated with smaller IRD, greater rectus abdominis thickness, higher physical activity levels, greater MMT strength, and further distance walked in 6 minutes (P < .05).
Postpartum women (up to 6 months) had greater fatigability of the lumbopelvic stabilizing muscles and lower physical function than nulligravid women, suggesting core muscle function and fatigability should be assessed after pregnancy and childbirth. The ASLR Fatigue Task could be a clinically useful tool to determine fatigability of the lumbopelvic stabilizing muscles in women postpartum.