12 December 2017
Chronic low back pain (CLBP) is the most prevalent of the painful musculoskeletal conditions. CLBP is a heterogeneous condition with many causes and diagnoses, but there are few established therapies with strong evidence of effectiveness (or cost effectiveness). CLBP for which it is not possible to identify any specific cause is often referred to as non‐specific chronic LBP (NSCLBP). One type of NSCLBP is continuing and recurrent primarily nociceptive CLBP due to vertebral joint overload subsequent to functional instability of the lumbar spine. This condition may occur due to disruption of the motor control system to the key stabilizing muscles in the lumbar spine, particularly the lumbar multifidus muscle (MF).
This review presents the evidence for MF involvement in CLBP, mechanisms of action of disruption of control of the MF, and options for restoring control of the MF as a treatment for NSCLBP.
Imaging assessment of motor control dysfunction of the MF in individual patients is fraught with difficulty. MRI or ultrasound imaging techniques, while reliable, have limited diagnostic or predictive utility. For some patients, restoration of motor control to the MF with specific exercises can be effective, but population results are not persuasive since most patients are unable to voluntarily contract the MF and may be inhibited from doing so due to arthrogenic muscle inhibition.