Relationship between muscle fiber composition and functional capacity of back muscles in healthy subjects and patients with back pain

Joseph Kim Fai Ng, Carolyn A. Richardson, Vaughan Kippers, Mohamad Parnianpour

Research output: Journal article publicationReview articleAcademic researchpeer-review

76 Citations (Scopus)


Back muscles are important to the stability of the lumbar spine. Muscle fiber composition may give some indication of the functional capacity of these muscles. This review explores the relationship between muscle fiber composition and functional capacity of back muscles. The reference values for the type and size of the muscle fibers found in the back musculature of healthy subjects and patients with back pain are also presented. A high percentage of type I fibers, which are larger in size than type II fibers, has been found in back muscles at the thoracic and lumbar levels. This is in accordance with the postural function of these muscles. The diameter of type II fibers is smaller in females than males, which may partly explain the lesser strength and greater endurance capacity of back muscles in females. Due to the limited amount of pertinent data, no conclusive evidence is available regarding age-related changes in muscle fiber composition in the musculature of the back. In patients with lumbar disorders, pathological changes and selective atrophy of type II fibers are seen, and these can be changed with adequate exercises. Further research is suggested to address issues related to gender, age, back pain, and exercise and their effects on the apparent back muscle fiber composition.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)389-402
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Orthopaedic and Sports Physical Therapy
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 1998


  • Back muscles
  • Back pain
  • Muscle fibers

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation

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