Maciej Biały, Wacław M. Adamczyk, Patryk Marczykowski, Rafał Majchrzak, Rafał Gnat

November 2019, Volume 28, Issue 11, pp 2444 - 2451 Original Article Read Full Article 10.1007/s00586-019-06016-y

First Online: 24 May 2019

Deformations of abdominal muscles under experimentally induced low back pain


Low back pain (LBP) is associated with altered motor control and muscle activity; however, it remains unknown whether these changes predispose humans to injury and pain or are the consequence of ongoing nociceptive processes. In this experimental study, we aimed to use a novel ultrasound imaging technique for the measurement of lateral abdominal wall muscle activity: the tissue deformation index (TDI).


Forty-two healthy subjects (22.30 ± 1.49 years of age) were exposed to postural perturbation induced by rapid arm movement. Activity of three muscles, the transversus abdominis (TrA) and the internal and external oblique (EO), was recorded by ultrasound imaging (M-mode) with and without induction of LBP. Pain was induced by electrical stimulation applied bilaterally to the lumbar spine.


No significant differences in the TDI between right and left sides of the body (p > 0.05) were found. Generally, muscles deformed slower with pain compared to non-painful conditions; however, only EO muscle displayed a statistically significant reduction in deformation velocity (p ≤ 0.00001). TDI for EO decreased from 0.065% per ms ( ± 0.038, 95% CI 0.057–0.074) to 0.053% per ms ( ± 0.035, 95% CI 0.046–0.061). Furthermore, characteristic inter-muscular TDI gradients were observed, directed from inner towards outer muscular layers, with TrA showing the lowest TDI and EO the highest.


Experimentally induced LBP suppresses deformation of the superficial abdominal muscles and increases the variability of local/deep muscles. Further research is required to confirm these observations.

Graphical abstract

These slides can be retrieved under Electronic Supplementary Material.[Figure not available: see fulltext.]

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