Does wearing a pelvic belt affect the activation of the gluteus maximus and gluteus medius muscles in healthy males? Recent research asked this question, and the results, although difficult to extrapolate to other patient populations, are interesting. Surface electromyography (sEMG) amplitude was measured in 20 male patients during 6 exercises, and the amplitude during the exercise was compared to a maximum voluntary contraction. The findings demonstrated that muscle activation increased in the gluteus maximus when a pelvic belt was worn. Activation in the gluteus medius was unchanged for all exercise except during the clam exercise when the gluteus medius was noted to be more active.
Mean age in the study was 23 years, and all participants reported a lack of disease or injury. All were able to complete the exercises without pain. The 6 exercises that were instructed by an experienced physical therapist included hip clam, side lying hip abduction, single limb squat, single limb deadlift, frontal planar lunge, and frontal planar hop. Each exercise was performed 3 times, the order of exercise was randomized, and the dominant limb was used.
The authors bring up interesting points and hypotheses in relation to the sEMG findings. In a patient who presents with lumbar pain and delayed gluteus maximus activation, can a pelvic belt be utilized to improve muscle activation and therefore pelvic stability? Is adding a belt such as the COMPRESSOR belt used in this study valuable for allowing a patient to optimally complete dynamic activities, or does the belt inhibit gluteus medius activity by providing support that the muscles are supposed to provide? Most research invites us to consider the clinical implications of an intervention or a strategy, and the rehabilitation provider must assess the value of the strategy for that particular patient.
For practitioners who are interested in fine-tuning skills in lumbopelvic and hip assessment, Tracy Spitznagle, instructor in the Physical Therapy program at Washington University, will teach the Movement System Approach to Musculoskeletal Pelvic Pain: Lumbar, Hip, and SI Joint in April in Houston, TX. In this 2-day continuing education course, participants will learn to recognize movement impairment syndromes, perform movement tests, and develop a corrective exercise program based on a specific movement examination.