In this study we investigated the activity of the main back muscle (Musculus longissimus) by surface electromyography (EMG) during induced extension and lateral flexion at stance. Measurements were taken of 15 horses (age 5-20 years, 450-700 kg bwt) without signs of back pain. Reflecting markers were placed on the head, spinous processes of T5, T12, T16, L3 and on 2 of the sacral bones. The surface EMG electrodes were situated on the Musculus longissimus on both sides of the dorsal spinous processes of T12, T16 and L3.
In all horses and all movements (extension, lateral flexion to the left and right), the EMG on both sides of the dorsal spinous process of T12 had the highest, and the EMG on both sides of the spinous process of L3, the lowest amplitude (30% of T12). At T16 the amplitude of the EMG signal was 60% of that at T12. There was no time shift between the EMG signals at the different locations (T12, T16, L3). There was a very high correlation between motion and amplitude of the EMG signal of extension, with correlation coefficients of 0.78 at L3, 0.80 at T16 and 0.75 at T12. The correlation of the lateral flexion between amplitude of the EMG and motion was lower, with 0.38 at L3, 0.43 at T16 and 0.39 at T12. This investigation showed that the EMG of the Musculus longissimus during spinal reflexes should be derived on both sides of T12, because this is important for the clinical use of surface EMG.