South Florida Back and Spine Center

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Multifidus Atrophy

Multifidus atrophy is seen at varying degrees in almost all people that complain of low back pain. It is most common in women and those 55 years and older.

What is the Multifidus?

The multifidus muscle runs along both sides of the spine, providing stabilization during movement. It is made of a series of small muscles and is attached to all the vertebrae except C1 (the atlas).

The main action of the multifidus muscle is to work with the other core muscles to give support during flexion, rotation, and extension.

The lesser-known goal of a strong multifidus is to keep the vertebral bodies in alignment. When the multifidus becomes weak or atrophies, unwanted and unsynchronized movement of the vertebral bodies can happen. This movement can cause an array of spinal issues, which leads to increased low back pain.

What is Muscle Atrophy?

Muscle atrophy is the shrinkage or loss of muscle cells.

There are many factors that can lead to muscle atrophy:

  • Malnutrition
  • Injury
  • Age
  • Sedentary lifestyle or disuse
  • Genetics
  • Certain diseases

Most people who experience significant muscle atrophy tend to have a mixture of causes that have led to their atrophy.

General muscle atrophy will lead to decreased strength, limited range of motion, and even pain.

Atrophy of the Multifidus Muscle

Now that the multifidus and atrophy have separately been discussed, the result of multifidus atrophy is obvious.

Those suffering from multifidus atrophy tend to show symptoms of:

  • Chronic low back pain
  • Slouched posture
  • Pain with getting up from a seated position and sitting back down
  • Pain with basic bending, lifting, and twisting

These symptoms are the basics of multifidus atrophy. There is also the possibility of more serious conditions arising from a weakened multifidus. The more serious symptoms are:

  • Numbness and tingling down the legs
  • Moderate to severe back and leg weakness
  • Paralysis

These conditions are often the result of localized multifidus atrophy that has progressed over a long period. The weakness has allowed one or multiple vertebral bodies to become unstable and move out of place. This movement can lead to added pressure on the spinal cord or peripheral nerves.

Treating Multifidus Atrophy

The best way to treat multifidus atrophy is prevention. An active lifestyle, a healthy diet, and regular exercise are some of the best ways to prevent atrophy.

If the atrophy is already present, many physicians suggest physical therapy and a home exercise program to engage the multifidus and promote strength.

If physical therapy is not working, there are more interventional methods, such as medial branch nerve stimulation which will help strengthen and reactivate the multifidus muscle.

Who Treats Multifidus Atrophy?

Many patients never realize they have multifidus atrophy. They complain mainly of low back pain and seek out a physician for help.

It is usually not until after seeing an MRI of the spine will the physician make it clear to the patient that they have multifidus atrophy.

As this is often the case, seek out an interventional pain specialist if you suffer from chronic low back pain.

Here at Cantor Spine Center, we regularly see varying degrees of multifidus atrophy. Now, there is a new minimally invasive treatment option called ReActiv8, the first and only FDA approved restorative treatment option for mechanical low back pain. ReActiv8 therapy activates the stabilizing muscles of your low back, focusing on the cause of your pain.

If you would like to learn more about multifidus atrophy or to see if you are a candidate for ReActiv8, schedule your appointment today by calling 954.567.1332 or contact us by submitting a patient appointment request.