Direct muscle electrical stimulation as a method for the in vivo assessment of force production in m. abductor hallucis.J Biomech 2020; :109606JB
In vivo assessment of the force-generating capacity of m. abductor hallucis (AbH) is problematic due to its combined abduction-flexion action and the inability of some individuals to voluntarily activate the muscle. This study investigated direct muscle electrical stimulation as a method to assess isometric force production in AbH about the 1st metatarsal phalangeal joint (1MPJ) at different muscle-tendon lengths, with the aim of identifying an optimal angle for force production. A 7 s stimulation train was delivered at 20 Hz pulse frequency and sub-maximal (150% motor threshold) intensity to the AbH of the left foot in 16 participants whilst seated, and with the Hallux suspended from a force transducer in 0°,5°,10°,15° and 20° 1MPJ dorsal flexion. Reflective markers positioned on the foot and force transducer were tracked with 5 optical cameras to continuously record the force profile and calculate the external 1MPJ joint flexion moment at each joint configuration. A parabolic relationship was found between AbH force production and 1MPJ configuration. The highest 1MPJ joint moments induced by electrical stimulation were found between 10° and 15° of Hallux dorsal flexion. However, the joint angle (p < 0.001; η2 = 0.86) changed significantly across all but one 1MPJ configurations tested during the stimulation-evoked contraction, resulting in a significant change in the corresponding external moment arm (p < 0.001; η2 = 0.83). Therefore, the changes in joint geometry during contraction should be accounted for to prevent an underestimation of the resulting joint moment. We conclude that direct muscle electrical stimulation combined with dynamometry offers a robust method for standardised assessment of AbH sub-maximal isometric force production.