Mapping of back muscle stiffness along spine during standing and lying in young adults: A pilot study on spinal stiffness quantification with ultrasound imaging

Christina Zong Hao Ma, Long Jun Ren, Connie Lok Kan Cheng, Yong Ping Zheng

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


Muscle stiffness in the spinal region is essential for maintaining spinal function, and might be related to multiple spinal musculoskeletal disorders. However, information on the distribution of muscle stiffness along the spine in different postures in large subject samples has been lacking, which merits further investigation. This study introduced a new protocol of measuring bilateral back muscle stiffness along the thoracic and lumbar spine (at T3, T7, T11, L1 & L4 levels) with both ultrasound shear-wave elastography (SWE) and tissue ultrasound palpation system (TUPS) in the lying and standing postures of 64 healthy adults. Good inter-/intra-reliability existed in the SWE and TUPS back muscle stiffness measurements (ICC ≥ 0.731, p < 0.05). Back muscle stiffness at the L4 level was found to be the largest in the thoracic and lumbar regions (p < 0.05). The back muscle stiffness of males was significantly larger than that of females in both lying and standing postures (p < 0.03). SWE stiffness was found to be significantly larger in standing posture than lying among subjects (p < 0.001). It is reliable to apply SWE and TUPS to measure back muscle stiffness. The reported data on healthy young adults in this study may also serve as normative reference data for future studies on patients with scoliosis, low back pain, etc.

Original languageEnglish
Article number7317
Pages (from-to)1-16
Number of pages16
JournalSensors (Switzerland)
Issue number24
Publication statusPublished - 2 Dec 2020


  • Back muscle stiffness
  • Elasticity
  • Reliability
  • Shear-wave elastography (SWE)
  • Spine
  • Tissue ultrasound palpation system (TUPS)
  • Young’s modulus

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Analytical Chemistry
  • Biochemistry
  • Atomic and Molecular Physics, and Optics
  • Instrumentation
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering

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