Exercise-induced muscle damage on the contractile properties of the lumbar paraspinal muscles: a laser displacement mechanomyographic approach

  • Christian ThanEmail author
  • Llion Roberts
  • Brooke K. Coombes
  • Danijel Tosovic
  • J. Mark Brown
Original Article



This study investigated whether laser displacement mechanomyography (MMG) could detect acute injury of low back muscles following strenuous eccentric exercise.


Sixteen healthy adults (10 females, 6 males, mean ± standard deviation, age 21 ± 2.90 years, BMI 21.63 ± 1.99 kg/m2), without low back pain or low back resistance training, were recruited. Strength [maximum voluntary isometric contraction force (MVC)], pain intensity [visual analogue scale (VAS)], biological markers of muscle injury (serum myoglobin and creatine kinase levels), and MMG-derived muscle contractile properties were measured at seven different time points. Pre-exercise ‘control’ measures were taken prior to a strenuous eccentric exercise task, followed by an immediate post-exercise measurement and further four consecutive daily measurements. A final post-exercise measurement was completed on day 12 post-exercise.


Compared to pre-exercise control, MVC was lower immediately post-exercise (day 1) and on days 2–3. VAS scores were higher post-exercise (day 1) and from days 2–5. Myoglobin was significantly higher on day 4, whilst creatine kinase was significantly higher on days 4–5. MMG-derived maximum muscle displacement (Dmax) was significantly diminished post-exercise (day 1) at all vertebral segments (L1-MT), while contraction velocity (Vc) was significantly slower at all segments except sacral multifidus. Vc recovered rapidly (by day 2), while mid-lumbar Dmax resolved on day 12. Dmax had moderate correlations with MVC (R = 0.61) and VAS (R = − 0.50), and low correlations with myoglobin (R = − 0.36).


MMG appears capable of detecting changes in muscle contractile properties associated with an acute bout of low back pain.


Laser displacement mechanomyography (MMG) Low back pain Erector spinae Multifidus Acute injury Spine 



Creatine kinase


Coefficient of variation


Maximal muscle belly displacement


Erector spinae


Low back pain


Laser displacement sensor






Maximum voluntary contraction




Standard error mean


Contraction time


Transcutaneous neuromuscular stimulation


Visual analogue scale


Contraction velocity



The authors wish to acknowledge all participants involved in the study for their contribution. The authors also wish to acknowledge QML pathology for their assistance in blood sample collection.

Author contributions

CT designed the experiment, collected and analysed the data, and wrote the manuscript. LR collected and analysed the data and edited the manuscript. BKC designed the experiment, analysed the data, and edited the manuscript. DT collected and analysed the data and edited the manuscript. JMB designed the experimented and edited the manuscript. All authors read and approved the manuscript.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

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Supplementary material 1 (PDF 42 KB)
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Supplementary material 2 (PDF 35 KB)
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Supplementary material 3 (PDF 39 KB)
421_2018_4067_MOESM4_ESM.pdf (21 kb)
Supplementary material 4 (PDF 21 KB)
421_2018_4067_MOESM5_ESM.pdf (22 kb)
Supplementary material 5 (PDF 21 KB)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Biomedical SciencesThe University of QueenslandBrisbaneAustralia
  2. 2.School of Allied Health Sciences and Menzies Health Institute QueenslandGriffith UniversityGold CoastAustralia

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