Surface EMG as a fatigue indicator during FES-induced isometric muscle contractions

Naomi C. Chester, William K. Durfee

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

53 Scopus citations


The electromyogram (EMG) signal has potential as an indicator of stimulated muscle fatigue in applications of functional electrical stimulation (FES). In particular, it could be used to detect near lower limb collapse due to the associated muscle fatigue in FES-aided standing systems and thereby prevent falling. Surface EMG measurement, however, is hampered by stimulation artifact during FES. Modified surface stimulation and EMG detection equipment were designed and built to minimize this artifact and to permit detection of the electrical signal generated by the muscle during contraction. Artifact reduction techniques included shorting stimulator output leads between stimulus pulses and limiting and blanking slew rate in the EMG processing stage. Isometric fatigue experiments were performed by stimulating the quadriceps muscle of 20 able-bodied (a total of 125 trials) and three spinal cord injured (18 trials) subjects. Fatigue-tracking performance indicators were derived from the root-mean-square (RMS) of the EMG amplitude and from the median frequency (MF) of the EMG power spectral content. The results demonstrate that reliable fatigue tracking indicators for practical FES applications will be difficult to obtain, but that amplitude-based measures in spinal cord injured subjects show promise.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)27-37
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Electromyography and Kinesiology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 1 1997


  • EMG
  • FES
  • Fatigue

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