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Equine Vet J. 2011 Sep;43(5):522-9. doi: 10.1111/j.2042-3306.2010.00322.x. Epub 2011 Mar 15.

Dynamic mobilisation exercises increase cross sectional area of musculus multifidus.

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Departments of Large Animal Clinical Sciences and Small Animal Clinical Sciences, College of Veterinary Medicine, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI, USA.



In human subjects with back pain, the deep spinal stabiliser m. multifidus is inhibited ipsilaterally leading to atrophy, asymmetry and intervertebral instability. Specific physiotherapeutic exercises are required to reactivate m. multifidus. This study assesses the effect of dynamic mobilisation exercises on size and symmetry of m. multifidus in the equine caudal thoracic and lumbar spine.


Regular performance of dynamic mobilisation exercises over a period of 3 months increases cross sectional area (CSA) and left-right symmetry of m. multifidus muscles in the caudal thoracic and lumbar spine.


Eight horses performed dynamic mobilisation exercises (3 cervical flexions, one cervical extension and 3 lateral bending exercises to the left and right sides) with 5 repetitions/exercise/day on 5 days/week for 3 months during which time they were not ridden. Left and right m. multifidus CSA was measured ultrasonographically at 6 levels from T10 to L5 at the start (initial evaluation) and end (final evaluation) of the 3 month study. Changes in CSA of the right and left m. multifidus muscles and symmetry of m. multifidus CSA on the right and left sides between the 2 evaluations were sought using analysis of variance (P<0.05).


Between the initial evaluation and final evaluation m. multifidus CSA increased significantly at all 6 spinal levels on both right and left sides. Asymmetries in m. multifidus CSA between the right and left sides decreased between the initial and final evaluations.


Hypertrophy of multifidus occurred over a 3 month period during which dynamic mobilisation exercises were the only exercise performed.


Dynamic mobilisation exercises maybe a useful rehabilitative technique for horses in which m. multifidus has atrophied in response to back pain.

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