Effects of different verbal instructions on change of lumbar multifidus muscle thickness in asymptomatic adults and in patients with low back pain

Sharon Wang-Price, Jason Zafereo, Kelli Brizzolara, Lily Sokolowski, Dawn Turner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

4 Scopus citations


Background: Spinal stabilisation exercise has been shown to be effective in the rehabilitation of low back pain (LBP). Due to the isometric nature of spinal stabilisation exercise, manual therapists use various verbal instructions to elicit lumbar multifidus muscle contraction. Objectives: The purpose of this study was to assess whether or not three verbal instructions would alter muscle thickness of the lumbar multifidus muscle differently in asymptomatic individuals and patients with LBP. Methods: Three verbal instructions were selected for this study: (1) swell the muscle underneath the transducer, (2) draw your belly button in towards your spinal column and (3) think about tilting your pelvis but without really doing it. Lumbar multifidus muscle thickness was determined using parasagittal ultrasound (US) imaging. Measurements of muscle thickness were collected at rest and during verbal instructions from 21 asymptomatic adults and 21 patients with LBP. Percent changes of muscle thickness during contraction and at rest were compared between groups and across verbal instructions. Results: ANOVA results showed no significant interaction for both L4-5 and L5-S1, but a significant main effect of verbal instruction (P = 0.049) at L4-5.Post hoc analysis showed a greater increase with verbal instruction #3 than verbal instruction #2 (P = 0.009). There was no significant main effect of group at either segment. Discussion: The results of the study suggest that both groups responded similarly to the three verbal instructions. Verbal instructions may increase lumbar multifidus muscle thickness by different amounts at L4-5, but by the same amount at L5-S1.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-8
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Manual and Manipulative Therapy
Publication statusAccepted/In press - May 19 2016



  • Low back pain
  • Lumbar multifidus
  • Muscle activation
  • Muscle thickness
  • Ultrasound imaging
  • Verbal instruction

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation

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