Reliability and minimal detectable change in scapulothoracic neuromuscular activity

Amee L. Seitz, Timothy L. Uhl

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Scopus citations


Alterations in scapular muscle activity, including excess activation of the upper trapezius (UT) and onset latencies of the lower trapezius (LT) and serratus anterior (SA) muscles, are associated with abnormal scapular motion and shoulder impingement. Limited information exists on the reliability of neuromuscular activity to demonstrate the efficacy of interventions. The purpose of this study was to characterize the reproducibility of scapular muscle activity (mean activity, relative onset timing) over time and establish the minimal detectable change (MDC). Surface electromyography (sEMG) of the UT, LT, SA and anterior deltoid (AD) muscles in 16 adults were captured during an overhead lifting task in two sessions, one-week apart. sEMG data were also normalized to maximum isometric contraction and the relative onset and mean muscle activity during concentric and eccentric phases of the scapular muscles were calculated. Additionally, reliability of the absolute sEMG data during the lifting task and MVIC was evaluated. Both intrasession and intersession reliability of normalized and absolute mean scapular muscle activity, assessed with intraclass correlation coefficients (ICC), ranged from 0.62 to 0.99; MDC values were between 1.3% and 11.7% MVIC and 24 to 135. mV absolute sEMG. Reliability of sEMG during MVIC was ICC = 0.82-0.99, with the exception of intersession upper trapezius reliability (ICC = 0.36). Within session reliability of muscle onset times was ICC = 0.88-0.97, but between session reliability was lower with ICC = 0.43-0.73; MDC were between 39 and 237. ms. Small changes in scapular neuromuscular mean activity (>11.7% MVIC) can be interpreted as meaningful change, while change in muscle onset timing in light of specific processing parameters used in this study is more variable.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)968-974
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Electromyography and Kinesiology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 2012


  • EMG
  • Impingement
  • Lower trapezius
  • Scapula
  • Serratus anterior
  • Shoulder

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience (miscellaneous)
  • Biophysics
  • Clinical Neurology


Dive into the research topics of 'Reliability and minimal detectable change in scapulothoracic neuromuscular activity'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this