International Society of Biomechanics
Silver sponsor

Control of trunk muscle force in individuals with and without low back pain: New insights with intramuscular and high-density surface electromyography

PhD position
20 Oct 2018
20 Oct 2018
Birmingham, West Midlands
United Kingdom
University of Birmingham


DEADLINE: 05/11/2018

ENQUIRIES AND APPLICATIONS: Dr. Eduardo Martinez-Valdes,


The neural mechanisms underlying motor adaptations in musculoskeletal disorders are still a subject of debate. Various theories have been introduced over the years to explain motor adaption to pain; however, they cannot fully explain how the central nervous system (CNS) controls the force produced by muscles during painful conditions, nor explain the motor strategies used by people to respond to nociceptive stimuli. To understand how the motor system reacts to pain, it is necessary to use methods which assess the neural drive to muscles directly, in vivo, over a wide range of forces and conditions. Investigation of the behaviour and properties of motor units are ideal to study motor adaptations underlying painful conditions since they provide a unique insight into the neural code underlying movements. This is particularly relevant for the trunk muscles, as there has been a lack of studies specifically assessing the motor unit behaviour of both deep (i.e. multifidus) and superficial muscles (i.e. erector spinae) during the execution of tasks requiring a high level of muscle coordination and force control. 

Therefore, the aims of this project are: 

1- Validate a setup for the assessment of motor unit behaviour of deep and superficial trunk muscles using both intramuscular and high-density surface electromyography techniques. 
2- Examine differences in force control and motor unit properties between individuals with and without low back pain during the execution of force-matching visuomotor tasks. 
3- Develop an exercise protocol using force and electromyography feedback to reduce pain and recover function. 

Your responsibilities: 

 Participation in the funded research projects 
 Assistance in teaching in the field of Research Methodology and Biomechanics 
 Engagement in other research projects 
 Planning and conducting experiments in the laboratories of the Centre of Precision Rehabilitation for Spinal Pain 
 Designing measurement procedures 
 Recording, interpretation and validation of data 
 Writing research papers and presenting findings at academic conferences 
 Collaborate with industry/academia to apply the project results 

Your profile: 

 Master degree (or equivalent) in Physiotherapy, Kinesiology, Biomedical Engineering, Biomechanics or related discipline. 
 Knowledge of surface and intramuscular electromyography 
 Knowledge of force/torque measurements (i.e. isokinetic testing) 
 Some programming skills is desirable (i.e. Matlab) 
 Experience analysing motor unit data is desirable 
 Experience with ultrasonography is desirable 
 Experience with report writing and data analysis 
 Excellent English skills (oral and writing) 
 Ability to work independently to deliver the project milestones and willingness to work as a team player 
 Positive attitude with a willingness to cooperate with experts across different disciplines 

To apply please send a cover letter and CV to the School of Sport Exercise and Rehabilitation Sciences by 5th of November 2018. 
In your cover letter please explain why you are interested in the specific project and what you will bring to it, a possible further focus and why you are confident that you will be able to complete the PhD successfully. 
Interviews will be held in late November 2018