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Non-Invasive Investigation of Human Foot Muscles Function

Ferrari, Elisabetta (2018) Non-Invasive Investigation of Human Foot Muscles Function. Doctoral thesis (PhD), Manchester Metropolitan University.

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Abstract

Appropriate functioning of the human foot is fundamental for good quality of life. The intrinsic foot muscles (IFM) are a crucial component of the foot, but their natural behaviour and contribution to good foot health is currently poorly understood. Recording muscle activation from IFM has been attempted with invasive techniques, but these generally only allow assessment of one muscle at a time and are not much used in many clinical populations (e.g. children, patients with peripheral neuropathy or on blood thinning medication). Here a novel application of multi-channel surface electromyography (sEMG) electrodes is presented to non-invasively, record sEMG and quantify activation patterns of IFMs from across the plantar region of the foot. sEMG (13×5 array), kinematics and force plate data were recorded from 30 healthy adult volunteers who completed six postural balance tasks (e.g. bipedal stance, one-foot stance, two-foot tip-toe). Linear (amplitude based) and non-linear (entropy based) methodologies were used to evaluate the physiological features of the sEMG, the patterns of activation, the association with whole body and foot biomechanics and the neuromuscular drive to the IFM. EMG signals features (amplitude and frequency) were shown to be in the physiological ranges reported in the literature (Basmajian and De Luca, 1985), with spatially clustered patterns of high activation corresponding to the Flexor digitorum brevis muscle. IFMs responded differently based on the direction of postural sway, with greater activations associated with sways in the mediolateral direction. Entropy based, non-linear analysis revealed that neuromuscular drive to IFM depends on the balance demand of the postural task, with greater drive evident for more challenging tasks (i.e. standing on tiptoe). Combining non-invasive measures of IFM activation and entropy based assessment of temporal organisation (or structure) of EMG signal variability is therefore revealing of IFM function and will enable a more detailed assessment of IFM function across healthy and clinical populations.

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