Design: A single-blinded, cross-sectional observational study.

Objectives: Examine muscle cross-sectional area and symmetry of the lumbar multifidus muscle in elite ballroom dancers with and without low back pain (LBP).

Background: The incidence of LBP among elite ballroom dancers is high and at Brigham Young University is 57%. Previous research has linked lumbar multifidus muscle atrophy to low back pain; however this relationship has not been examined in ballroom dancers.

Methods and Measures: Lumbar multifidus cross-sectional area was assessed at rest on the right and left side at levels L1-L5. Thirty-seven subjects (age 24 ± 3.2 years; height, 172.8 ± 11.3 cm; mass, 54.6 ± 4.5 kg) were divided into one of three groups. Participants who reported LBP severe enough to interfere with dance training and daily living were allocated to the LBP group (reported pain at rest, during dance, and following dance) (n=15). Subjects who reported LBP that was not strong enough to interfere with training and daily living were allocated to the minimal pain group (reported pain during dance and following dance) (n= 6). And those who reported no back pain were put into the no pain group (n=16).

Results: There were no significant difference in demographics between the groups (P>0.05). There was no significant difference between groups in multifidus cross-sectional area (P = .437). Asymmetry was found in all groups with the left side being larger than the right (P < .002).

Conclusion: This study provides new information on lumbar multifidus cross-sectional area in elite ballroom dancers. Future research needs to examine other causes of LBP in elite ballroom dancers in an attempt to decrease LBP in these athletes.



College and Department

Life Sciences; Exercise Sciences



Date Submitted


Document Type





multifidus cross-sectional area, abdominal thickness, dance, chronic low back pain