Functional and morphological lumbar multifidus characteristics in subgroups with low back pain in primary care

Anke Hofste*, Remko Soer, Gerbrand J. Groen, Job van der Palen, Frank J.B. Geerdink, Frits G.J. Oosterveld, Henri Kiers, André P. Wolff, Hermie Hermens

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)
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Background: Since the contribution of the lumbar multifidus(LM) is not well understood in relation to non-specific low back pain(LBP), this may limit physiotherapists in choosing the most appropriate treatment strategy. Objectives: This study aims to compare clinical characteristics, in terms of LM function and morphology, between subacute and chronic LBP patients from a large clinical practice cohort compared to healthy controls. Design: Multicenter case control study. Method: Subacute and chronic LBP patients and healthy controls between 18 and 65 years of age were included. Several clinical tests were performed: primary outcomes were the LM thickness from ultrasound measurements, trunk range of motion(ROM) from 3D kinematic tests, and median frequency and root mean square values of LM by electromyography measurements. The secondary outcomes Numeric Rating Scale for Pain(NRS) and the Oswestry Disability Index(ODI) were administered. Comparisons between groups were made with ANOVA, p-values<0.05, with Tukey's HSD post-hoc test were considered significant. Results: A total of 161 participants were included, 50 healthy controls, 59 chronic LBP patients, and 52 subacute LBP patients. Trunk ROM and LM thickness were significantly larger in healthy controls compared to all LBP patients(p < 0.01). A lower LM thickness was found between subacute and chronic LBP patients although not significant(p = 0.11–0.97). All between-group comparisons showed no statistically significant differences in electromyography outcomes (p = 0.10–0.32). NRS showed no significant differences between LBP subgroups(p = 0.21). Chronic LBP patients showed a significant higher ODI score compared to subacute LBP patients(p = 0.03). Conclusions: Trunk ROM and LM thickness show differences between LBP patients and healthy controls.

Original languageEnglish
Article number102429
JournalMusculoskeletal Science and Practice
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2021


  • Electromyography
  • Low back pain
  • Lumbar multifidus
  • Lumbar spine
  • Spinal motion
  • Spine morphology


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