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The evaluation of lumbar multifidus muscle function via palpation: Reliability and validity of a new clinical test

Hebert, J.J., Koppenhaver, S.L., Teyhen, D.S., Walker, B.F. and Fritz, J.M. (2015) The evaluation of lumbar multifidus muscle function via palpation: Reliability and validity of a new clinical test. The Spine Journal, 15 (6). pp. 1196-1202.

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Link to Published Version: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.spinee.2013.08.056
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Abstract

Background context
The lumbar multifidus muscle provides an important contribution to lumbar spine stability, and the restoration of lumbar multifidus function is a frequent goal of rehabilitation. Currently, there are no reliable and valid physical examination procedures available to assess lumbar multifidus function among patients with low back pain.

Purpose
To examine the inter-rater reliability and concurrent validity of the multifidus lift test (MLT) to identify lumbar multifidus dysfunction among patients with low back pain.

Study design/setting
A cross-sectional analysis of reliability and concurrent validity performed in a university outpatient research facility.

Patient sample
Thirty-two persons aged 18 to 60 years with current low back pain and a minimum modified Oswestry disability score of 20%. Study participants were excluded if they reported a history of lumbar spine surgery, lumbar radiculopathy, medical red flags, osteoporosis, or had recently been treated with spinal manipulation or trunk stabilization exercises.

Outcome measures
Concurrent measures of lumbar multifidus muscle function at the L4–L5 and L5–S1 levels were obtained with the MLT (index test) and real-time ultrasound imaging (reference standard).

Methods
The inter-rater reliability of the MLT was examined by measuring the level of agreement between two blinded examiners. Concurrent validity of the MLT was investigated by comparing clinicians' judgments with real-time ultrasound imaging measures of lumbar multifidus function.

Results
Inter-rater reliability of the MLT was substantial to excellent (κ=0.75 to 0.81, p≤.01) and free from errors of bias and prevalence. When performed at L4–L5 or L5–S1, the MLT demonstrated evidence of concurrent validity through its relationship with the reference standard results at L4–L5 (rbis=0.59–0.73, p≤.01). The MLT generally failed to demonstrate a relationship with the reference standard results from the L5–S1 level.

Conclusions
Our results provide preliminary evidence supporting the reliability and validity of the MLT to assess lumbar multifidus function at the L4–L5 spinal level. Additional research examining the measurement properties and utility of this test should be undertaken before confident implementation with patients.

Publication Type: Journal Article
Murdoch Affiliation: School of Health Professions
School of Psychology and Exercise Science
Publisher: Elsevier
Copyright: © 2015 Elsevier Inc.
URI: http://researchrepository.murdoch.edu.au/id/eprint/20289
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