Passive mechanical properties of the lumbar multifidus muscle support its role as a stabilizer

Samuel R. Ward, Akihito Tomiya, Gilad J. Regev, Bryan E. Thacker, Robert C. Benzl, Choll W. Kim, Richard L. Lieber*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The purpose of this study was to compare the passive mechanical properties and titin isoform sizes of the multifidus, longissimus, and iliocostalis muscles. Given our knowledge of each muscle's architecture and the multifidus' operating range, we hypothesized that multifidus would have higher elastic modulus with corresponding smaller titin isoforms compared to longissimus or iliocostalis muscles. Single-fiber and fiber-bundle material properties were derived from passive stress-strain tests of excised biopsies (n=47). Titin isoform sizes were quantified via sodium dodecyl sulfate-vertical agarose gel electrophoresis (SDS-VAGE) analysis. We found that, at the single-fiber level, all muscles had similar material properties and titin isoform sizes. At the fiber-bundle level, however, we observed significantly increased stiffness (∼45%) in multifidus compared to longissimus and iliocostalis muscles. These data demonstrate that each muscle may have a different scaling relationship between single-fiber and fiber-bundle levels, suggesting that the structures responsible for higher order passive mechanical properties may be muscle specific. Our results suggest that divergent passive material properties are observed at size scales larger than the single cell level, highlighting the importance of the extracellular matrix in these muscles. In addition to architectural data previously reported, these data further support the unique stabilizing function of the multifidus muscle. These data will provide key input variables for biomechanical modeling of normal and pathologic lumbar spine function and direct future work in biomechanical testing in these important muscles.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1384-1389
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Biomechanics
Issue number10
StatePublished - 22 Jul 2009
Externally publishedYes


  • Lumbar multifidus
  • Lumbar spine
  • Muscle mechanics


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