The cause of chronic back pain is very complex, and most often the result of multiple contributing factors. Despite varied diagnoses such as degenerative joint disease, disc herniations, spondylolisthesis, and others, medical research has shown that 80% of chronic low back pain is due at lest in part to weak trunk muscles. Because these muscles play such an important role in stabilizing and support the spine, treatment programs aimed at strengthening the back have been highly successful.
The multifidus muscle is a group of muscles that run along the entire length of your spine, and attach to the joints of the vertebrae. It is highly active in many everyday motions and activities, including standing still, bending forward, twisting to either side, picking or lifting things up, and walking. It acts as a major stabilizer for the spine. As it contracts, it stiffens the vertebrae, giving about two-thirds of the muscle stability for the spine.
Researchers have found that abnormalities in the multifidus muscle are common in patients suffering from chronic low back pain. In summary:
- There is a significant correlation between multifidus muscle wasting and the complaints of leg pain
- MRI tests reveal that chronic low back pain patients have smaller, weaker multifidus muscles than healthy control subjects
- Fatty infiltration of the multifidus muscle occurs over time
- Exercise has been documented to increase both the size and strength of the multifidus muscle in patients with chronic low back pain
- Abnormal EMGs have been consistently observed in the multifidus muscles of chronic back-pain patients, usually at just one level of the spine
- Abnormal EMGs can also return to normal after exercise therapy
How to strengthen the Multifidus:
Your PDR physical and occupational therapists have been trained on the most effective techniques for strengthening the multifidus, and related low back and abdominal muscles. MedX strengthening using the lumbar extension and rotary torso machines isolate the low back muscles for most preferred strength building. Mat and ball exercises are also prescribed to continue strengthening at home, and for continued maintenance. Your therapists will work with you to determine the appropriate exercises, as well as intensity and repetitions that will give you the best results.