The use of surface electromyography in assessing the effectiveness of manual therapy: a systematic review

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Rui Santiago
J. Santos Baptista
André Magalhães
J. Torres Costa


Research on the use of surface electromyography (sEMG) for analyzing the effects of Manual Therapy (MT) seems to have very dispersed intentions. The development of data collection protocols using sEMG might not be stable for conducting clinical studies. This study aimed to evaluate the current literature using surface sEMG in the context of MT and verify if it is a useful tool to verify its effectiveness. Also, to assess the methodologic quality and reporting standards and make a reflective analysis of how this technique has been used for this treatment modality. A computerized search was performed in May 2017 and repeated in June 2018, the search was performed in 8 electronic databases following PRISMA protocol. Thirty-one papers were included. More and better-designed studies are needed to create improved protocols. Further exploration and validation of these protocols may help to conduct more reliable clinically driven trials and it may inform policymakers of the role of MT in health care. The detection of clinically meaningful electrical alterations in muscles seems to be the main objective of most authors. Several sEMG items were not reported, and overall methodology quality was low.

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