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Musculoskeletal modelling of muscle activation and applied external forces for the correction of scoliosis


Maurice Curtin, Madeleine Lowery

Publication Type: 
Refereed Original Article
RESEARCH Open Access Musculoskeletal modelling of muscle activation and applied external forces for the correction of scoliosis Maurice Curtin * and Madeleine M Lowery Abstract Background: This study uses biomechanical modelling and computational optimization to investigate muscle activation in combination with applied external forces as a treatment for scoliosis. Bracing, which incorporates applied external forces, is the most popular non surgical treatment for scoliosis. Non surgical treatments which make use of muscle activation include electrical stimulation, postural control, and therapeutic exercises. Electrical stimulation has been largely dismissed as a viable treatment for scoliosis, although previous studies have suggested that it can potentially deliver similarly effective corrective forces to the spine as bracing. Methods: The potential of muscle activation for scoliosis correction was investigated over different curvatures both with and without the addition of externally applied forces. The five King ’ s classifications of scoliosis were investigated over a range of Cobb angles. A biomechanical model of the spine was used to represent various scoliotic curvatures. Optimization was applied to the model to reduce the curves using combinations of both deep and superficial muscle activation and applied external forces. Results: Simulating applied external forces in combination with muscle activation at low Cobb angles (< 20 degrees) over the 5 King ’ s classifications, it was possible to reduce the magnitude of the curve by up to 85% for classification 4, 75% for classifications 3 and 5, 65% for classification 2, and 60% for classification 1. The reduction in curvature was less at larger Cobb angles. For King ’ s classifications 1 and 2, the serratus, latissimus dorsi, and trapezius muscles were consistently recruited by the optimization algorithm for activation across all Cobb angles. When muscle activation and external forces were applied in combination, lower levels of muscle activation or less external force was required to reduce the curvature of the spine, when compared with either muscle activation or external force applied in isolation. Conclusions: The results of this study suggest that activation of superficial and deep muscles may be effective in reducing spinal curvature at low Cobb angles when muscle groups are selected for activation based on the curve type. The findings further suggest the potential for a hybrid treatment involving combined muscle activation and applied external forces at larger Cobb angles. Keywords: Muscle activation, Electrical stimulation, Scoliosis, Optimization, Biomechanical modelling
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Publication Date: 
Journal of NeuroEngineering and Rehabilitati
Research Group: 
National University of Ireland, Dublin (UCD)
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