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Shrawan Kumar and Anil Mital (eds): electromyography in ergonomics.

Grant KA
Hum Factors Ergon Manuf 1997 Mar; 7(2):155-156
Electromyography (EMG), or the recording of electrical phenomena resulting from muscle stimulation and contraction, has long proven a valuable tool for the assessment of muscular loads and stresses in biomedical research. In the workplace, it has been used to assess the physical demands imposed on workers by various work methods, workplace layouts, and tool designs. However, because proper use of EMG requires knowledge of physiology, biomechanics, and instrumentation, EMG techniques are frequently misunderstood and misapplied by students and researchers alike. Hence, the stated purpose of Electromyography in Ergonomics is to demystify, rationalize and exemplify EMG, in hopes of reducing future errors in ergonomic studies. To achieve this goal, Drs. Kumar and Mital have assembled 10 chapters, authored by 14 experienced electromyographers, to provide instruction and information on the acquisition, interpretation, and application of EMG data. Specific attention is given to (1) the physiological basis of the EMG signal, (2) sources of noise and other unwanted signal disturbances, (3) signal processing methods, (4) changes in the EMG signal resulting from energy metabolism and muscle fatigue, and (5) the use of EMG for assessment of upper extremity muscle activity, neck and shoulder symptoms, and low back pain. Unlike previous reference books on EMG, which have tended to focus on clinical applications, this book is almost wholly devoted to a discussion of EMG as a tool for studying the physiological implications of work. The text makes generous reference to the large body of literature on EMG, and provides numerous examples of its application in the industrial setting. Chapter 1 by Kumar provides a helpful overview of the uses and limitations of EMG. Nonphysiologists will find the discussion of muscle physiology and action potential propagation in Chapter 2 especially useful. Chapter 7 by Strasser illustrates the use of EMG to examine muscular strain in the upper extremities during simulated work activities. In addition, Strasser draws extensively from a large body of work originally published in German, with which many English-speaking readers may be unfamiliar. Unfortunately, because the book is an edited compilation of stand-alone chapters, information is not necessarily presented in the most concise or coherent manner. Chapters tend to overlap; e.g., changes in the EMG signal due to muscle fatigue are described separately in no less than four chapters. Inordinate emphasis is given to some topics, while others are dealt with only summarily. Although a whole chapter is devoted to Noise and Artefact (problems that cause less concern in recent years due to instrumentation improvements), readers must refer to Basmajian and DeLuca's (now aging) classic, Muscles Alive, Their Functions Revealed by Electromyography (1985), for a full discussion of EMG recording techniques. Undoubtedly, this book will serve as a useful reference and a valuable addition to the library of any researcher interested in the application of EMG to work assessment. However, students seeking a primer in EMG may do better to seek out the more tutorial NIOSH publication, Selected Topics in Surface Electromyography for Use in the Occupational Setting: Expert Perspectives. Nonetheless, the editors' efforts to elucidate an oft misunderstood technique are applauded.
Electrical-measurement-devices; Electrical-stimulation; Electronic-devices; Electronic-equipment; Medical-equipment; Physiological-measurements; Physiological-testing; Muscle-contraction; Muscle-function; Musculoskeletal-system
Publication Date
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Fiscal Year
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NIOSH Division
Source Name
Human Factors and Ergonomics in Manufacturing
Page last reviewed: October 22, 2021
Content source: National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Education and Information Division