Keywords: electromyography, hypertonic, isometric contraction, masticatory muscles, saline solution
Aims: To test the hypothesis that, in comparison with control, experimental noxious stimulation of the right masseter muscle would result in significant changes in the firing rates, thresholds, and recruitment orders of single-motor units (SMUs) of the nonpainful, synergistic right anterior temporalis muscle during goal-directed isometric biting task performance.
Methods: Twenty healthy volunteers received an infusion of hypertonic saline (HS; 5% sodium chloride) into the right masseter to produce pain intensity of 40 to 60 on a 100-mm visual analog scale (VAS). Isotonic saline (IS) infusion was a control. Standardized biting tasks were performed with an intraoral force transducer, and intramuscular electromyographic activity was recorded from the right anterior temporalis muscle. Tasks (slow and fast ramp biting tasks, two-step biting task) were performed in 3 blocks: baseline, HS infusion, and IS infusion. Across blocks, SMU thresholds and firing rates were statistically compared, and SMU recruitment sequences were qualitatively compared. Statistical significance was set at P < .05.
Results: No significant differences (P > .05) were noted between HS and IS infusion blocks in thresholds or firing rates of anterior temporalis SMUs. Individual SMUs showed increases or decreases in thresholds or firing rates or changes in recruitment sequences mostly during HS compared to IS infusion.
Conclusion: The reorganization of SMU activity that has been suggested to occur in both painful and nonpainful agonist jaw muscles may involve not only recruitments and de-recruitments of SMUs, but may also extend to more subtle increases and/or decreases in firing rates, thresholds, and recruitment sequences of individual SMUs in the nonpainful synergistic muscles.