Original Research

An electromyographic study of abdominal muscle activity in children with spastic cerebral palsy

Saviour Adjenti, Graham Louw, Jennifer Jelsma, Marianne Unger
South African Journal of Physiotherapy | Vol 73, No 1 | a341 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/sajp.v73i1.341 | © 2017 Saviour Adjenti, Graham Louw, Jennifer Jelsma, Marianne Unger | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 22 June 2016 | Published: 20 October 2017

About the author(s)

Saviour Adjenti, Department of Anatomy, School of Biomedical & Allied Health Sciences, College of Health Sciences, University of Ghana, Ghana
Graham Louw, Division of Clinical Anatomy & Biological Anthropology, Department of Human Biology, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Cape Town, South Africa
Jennifer Jelsma, Division of Physiotherapy, Department of Health & Rehabilitation Sciences, University of Cape Town, South Africa
Marianne Unger, Division of Physiotherapy, Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, Stellenbosch University,, South Africa


Background: Inadequate knowledge in the recruitment patterns of abdominal muscles in individuals with spastic-type cerebral palsy (STCP).
Objectives: To determine whether there is any difference between the neuromuscular activity (activation pattern) of the abdominal muscles in children with STCP and those of their typically developing (TD) peers.
Method: The NORAXAN® electromyography (EMG) was used to monitor the neuromuscular activity in abdominal muscles of individuals with STCP (n = 63), and the results were compared with the findings from age-matched TD individuals (n = 82).
Results: EMG frequencies were recorded during rest and during active states and compared using repeated measures ANOVA. Spearman’s rank order correlation was used to explore relationships between age, body mass index and abdominal muscle activity. With the exception of the rectus abdominis (RA) muscle, the pattern of neuromuscular activity in children with STCP differs significantly from that of their TD peers. Three of the muscles – external oblique abdominis (EO), internal oblique abdominis (IO) and RA – in both groups showed significant changes (p < 0.001) in the frequency of EMG activity between the resting and active states. An elevated EMG activity at rest in the EO and IO was recorded in the STCP group, whereas the RA during resting and active stages showed similar results to TD individuals.
Conclusion: The findings from this study suggest that the RA could be targeted during rehabilitation regimens; however, the force generated by this muscle may not be sufficient for the maintenance of trunk stability without optimal support from the EO and IO muscles.


spastic type cerebral palsy (STCP); abdominal muscles; postural muscles; neuromuscular activity; electromyography (EMG); activation pattern; rehabilitation


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