Effects of postural disturbances with fatigued triceps surae muscles or with 20% additional body weight

Torbjörn Ledin, P A Fransson, M Magnusson
Gait & Posture 2004, 19 (2): 184-93
One of the main issues for balance control is the ability to generate enough forces to execute motions and uphold stability. This study aimed to investigate whether induced fatigue of the triceps surae muscles and decreased muscle force due to temporary additional body weight affected the ability to withstand balance perturbations. Another aim was to examine whether postural control adaptation over time was able to compensate for the changes induced by fatigue and additional body weight. Eleven normal subjects were exposed to vibratory proprioceptive stimulation during three test conditions; a baseline test during normal condition; when the body weight was increased by 20%, by adding additional weight load; and when the triceps surae muscles were fatigued. The tests were performed both with eyes open and closed. The body movements were evaluated by analyzing the anteroposterior and lateral torques induced towards the supporting surface measured with a force platform. Postural control was substantially affected both by the additional body weight, and by muscle fatigue in the triceps surae muscles. The anteroposterior and lateral body sway were larger both with added weight and fatigued muscles compared with the baseline test during quiet stance. However, the body sway induced by the vibratory stimulation was significantly larger with additional body weight compared with when the triceps surae muscles were fatigued. The differences between the test conditions were mostly pronounced during tests with eyes closed and in the high frequency body sway (>0.1 Hz). Postural control adaptation was able to reduce but not fully compensate for the changes induced by fatigue and additional body weight. Several hypotheses could account for these observations. (1) Fatigued muscles are less sensitive to muscle vibration, (2) muscle fatigue alters the muscle contractile efficiency and thus alters the ability to produce high-frequency, short-latency responses to balance perturbations.

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