P. Mahaudens, X. Banse, M. Mousny, C. Detrembleur

March 2009, Volume 18, Issue 4, pp 512 - 521 Original Article Read Full Article 10.1007/s00586-009-0899-7

First Online: 18 February 2009

Adolescent idiopathic scoliosis (AIS) is a progressive growth disease that affects spinal anatomy, mobility, and left-right trunk symmetry. Consequently, AIS can modify human locomotion. Very few studies have investigated a simple activity like walking in a cohort of well-defined untreated patients with scoliosis. The first goal of this study is to evaluate the effects of scoliosis and scoliosis severity on kinematic and electromyographic (EMG) gait variables compared to an able-bodied population. The second goal is to look for any asymmetry in these parameters during walking. Thirteen healthy girls and 41 females with untreated AIS, with left thoracolumbar or lumbar primary structural curves were assessed. AIS patients were divided into three clinical subgroups (group 1 < 20°, group 2 between 20 and 40°, and group 3 > 40°). Gait analysis included synchronous bilateral kinematic and EMG measurements. The subjects walked on a treadmill at 4 km/h (comfortable speed). The tridimensional (3D) shoulder, pelvis, and lower limb motions were measured using 22 reflective markers tracked by four infrared cameras. The EMG timing activity was measured using bipolar surface electrodes on quadratus lumborum, erector spinae, gluteus medius, rectus femoris, semitendinosus, tibialis anterior, and gastrocnemius muscles. Statistical comparisons (ANOVA) were performed across groups and sides for kinematic and EMG parameters. The step length was reduced in AIS compared to normal subjects (7% less). Frontal shoulder, pelvis, and hip motion and transversal hip motion were reduced in scoliosis patients (respectively, 21, 27, 28, and 22% less). The EMG recording during walking showed that the quadratus lumborum, erector spinae, gluteus medius, and semitendinosus muscles contracted during a longer part of the stride in scoliotic patients (46% of the stride) compared with normal subjects (35% of the stride). There was no significant difference between scoliosis groups 1, 2, and 3 for any of the kinematic and EMG parameters, meaning that severe scoliosis was not associated with increased differences in gait parameters compared to mild scoliosis. Scoliosis was not associated with any kinematic or EMG left–right asymmetry. In conclusion, scoliosis patients showed significant but slight modifications in gait, even in cases of mild scoliosis. With the naked eye, one could not see any difference from controls, but with powerful gait analysis technology, the pelvic frontal motion (right–left tilting) was reduced, as was the motion in the hips and shoulder. Surprisingly, no asymmetry was noted but the spine seemed dynamically stiffened by the longer contraction time of major spinal and pelvic muscles. Further studies are needed to evaluate the origin and consequences of these observations.

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