Dr Stephanie Valentin

Project Title: Measurement of Spinal Muscle Stiffness in People with Low Back Pain by Magnetic Resonance Elastography

Low back pain (LBP) is a common problem that limits people in their daily life. The most common type of LBP is non-specific LBP, where no identifiable cause is found on imaging such as an x-ray or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).

It is still unknown why some people develop non-specific LBP. We know that the structure and activity of the back muscles can change in people with LBP, but the process underlying and linking these changes, and the extent to which these changes drive persistent pain, are not fully understood. Furthermore, quantifiable information about the mechanical properties (such as stiffness) of these muscles is not known. Tissue stiffness is often assessed by clinicians using manual palpation, as it can tell clinicians more about the health (or pathology) of that tissue. However, manual palpation is a very subjective way to determine stiffness of the tissues. A special type of MRI measurement called Magnetic Resonance Elastography (MRE) is a non-invasive way to determine tissue stiffness. MRE has been used to determine stiffness of organs such as the liver and also of muscles of the limbs, but not yet of the muscles of the back.

This project is the first to quantify stiffness of the back muscles in people with LBP using MRE. This information will be a further step towards understanding the changes that occur in the back muscles in people with LBP and give a better insight in possible treatments for this often chronic condition.

Awarded: Research Incentive Grant

Field: Health & Human Sciences

University: University of the West of Scotland

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