< Back to previous page


Biopsy samples from the erector spinae of persons with nonspecific chronic low back pain display a decrease in glycolytic muscle fibers

Journal Contribution - Journal Article

BACKGROUND CONTEXT: Low back pain (LBP) in Western Europe was classified as having the highest disability and overall burden among 291 studied conditions. For an extensive period of time, evidence related to morphological changes (eg, atrophy and fat infiltration) of the paraspinal muscles in persons with LBP has accumulated. Despite this evidence, there is limited knowledge on muscle fiber type composition of these muscles, and their relation to LBP. PURPOSE: The aim of the study is to investigate differences in muscle fiber type composition between persons with nonspecific chronic low back pain (NSCLBP) and healthy controls for the lumbar erector spinae (ES) and multifidus (MF) muscle. STUDY DESIGN AND SETTING: A cross-sectional study took place in the REVAL Rehabilitation Research Center, Hasselt University, Diepenbeek, Belgium. PATIENT SAMPLE: Twenty persons with NSCLBP (age: 44.5 +/- 7.42) and 18 healthy controls (age: 39.89 +/- 7.90) participated in this study. OUTCOME MEASURES: The primary outcome measure was paraspinal muscle fiber type composition. Secondary outcomes consisted of physiologic measures (maximal aerobic capacity and back muscle strength) and functional measures (activity level). METHODS: Biopsy samples were taken from the lumbar ES and MF muscle at the L4 spinal level. These samples were stained using immunofluorescent antibodies against myosin heavy chains. In each sample, number and size (CSA) of type I, I/IIa, IIa, IIa/x, and IIx muscle fibers were quantified. From these data the relative cross-sectional fiber areas (RCSA) were calculated. To analyze differences in fiber type composition between healthy persons and persons with NSCLBP, a repeated measurements analysis of variance was used. Secondary outcome measures were analyzed using a Student's t test, and Wilcoxon test. This study was supported by the research fund of Hasselt University without potential conflict of interest. RESULTS: There were no significant differences between both groups regarding anthropometric data. There were no significant between group differences for CSA in the ES. Persons with NSCLBP displayed a nonsignificant (p=.0978) increase in the number of type I muscle fibers, and a significant decrease (p=.0019) in the number of type IIx muscle fibers in the ES muscle. Persons with NSCLBP also displayed a trend toward a higher (p=.0596) RCSA for type I fibers and a significantly lower RCSA for type IIx fibers (p=.0411). There were no significant between group differences within the MF. Regarding the secondary outcome measures, there was a significant between group difference in activity level (p=.0004) and isokinetic back muscle strength (p=.0342). CONCLUSIONS: This is the first study to examine muscle fiber type characteristics in both the ES and MF muscle of persons with NSCLBP. Based on muscle fiber characteristics, the paraspinal muscles of persons with NSCLBP seems to display a larger oxidative potential based on an increase of the number type I fibers at the expense of type IIx glycolytic fibers.
Journal: Spine Journal
ISSN: 1529-9430
Issue: 2
Volume: 20
Pages: 199 - 206
Number of pages: 8
Publication year:2020