Paraspinal Muscles & Association with Strength among Fighter Pilots

Research Paper Title

Cross-sectional area of the paraspinal muscles and its association with muscle strength among fighter pilots: a 5-year follow-up.

Background

A small cross sectional area (CSA) of the paraspinal muscles may be related to low back pain among military aviators but previous studies have mainly concentrated on spinal disc degeneration. Therefore, the primary aim of the study was to investigate the changes in muscle CSA and composition of the psoas and paraspinal muscles during a 5-year follow up among Finnish Air Force (FINAF) fighter pilots.

Methods

Study population consisted of 26 volunteered FINAF male fighter pilots (age: 20.6 (±0.6) at the baseline). The magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) examinations were collected at baseline and after 5 years of follow-up. CSA and composition of the paraspinal and psoas muscles were obtained at the levels of 3-4 and 4-5 lumbar spine. Maximal isometric strength tests were only performed on one occasion at baseline.

Results

The follow-up comparisons indicated that the mean CSA of the paraspinal muscles increased (p < 0.01) by 8% at L3-4 level and 7% at L4-5 level during the 5-year period. There was no change in muscle composition during the follow-up period. The paraspinal and psoas muscles’ CSA was positively related to overall maximal isometric strength at the baseline. However, there was no association between LBP and muscle composition or CSA.

Conclusions

The paraspinal muscles’ CSA increased among FINAF fighter pilots during the first 5 years of service. This might be explained by physically demanding work and regular physical activity. However, no associations between muscle composition or CSA and low back pain (LBP) experienced were observed after the five-year follow-up.

Reference

Honkanen, T., Mäntysaari, M., Leino, T., Avela, J., Kerttula, L., Haapamäki, V. & Kyröläinen, H. (2019) Cross-sectional area of the paraspinal muscles and its association with muscle strength among fighter pilots: a 5-year follow-up. BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders. 16;20(1):170. doi: 10.1186/s12891-019-2551-y.

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