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Asian J Sports Med. 2015 Mar;6(1):e23803. doi: 10.5812/asjsm.23803. Epub 2015 Jan 19.

The role of ultrasound in diagnosis of the causes of low back pain: a review of the literature.

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Nuclear Medicine and Molecular Imaging, Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, United States.
Sports Medicine Research Center, Tehran University of Medical Sciences, Tehran, IR Iran ; Departement of Spine, Noorafshar Rehabilitation and Sports Medicine Hospital, Tehran, IR Iran.
Sports Medicine Research Center, Tehran University of Medical Sciences, Tehran, IR Iran.



Low back pain (LBP) is among the most prevalent musculoskeletal conditions in the developed countries. It is a common problem causing disability and imposing a huge economic burden to individuals and state organizations. Imaging plays an important role in diagnosis of the etiology of LBP.


The electronic databases included: PubMed (1950 to present), Ovid SP Medline (1950 to present) and ISI (1982 to present) and Google Scholar. In every search engine another search was performed using various permutations of the following keywords: ultrasonography, ultrasound imaging, low back pain, back muscles, paraspinal muscles, multifidus, transverse abdominis, muscle size, spinal canal, sacroiliac joint and spondylolisthesis.


Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is widely used in evaluation of patients with LBP; however, high costs, limited availability and contraindications for its use have restricted MRI utilization. In a quest for a less expensive and readily available tool to investigate LBP, clinicians and researchers found ultrasonography (US) as an alternative. In this review we discuss the US application in diagnosis of some common causes of non-specific chronic LBP. Discussed topics include evaluation of spinal canal diameter, paraspinal and transabdominal muscles, sacroiliac joint laxity, pregnancy related LBP, sacroiliitis, and spondylolisthesis using US in patients with LBP.


While the first researches on employing ultrasound in diagnosis of patients with LBP had been focused on spinal canal diameter, recent studies have been mostly performed to evaluate the role of transabdominal and paraspinal muscles on core stability and thereby LBP occurrence. On the other side, Doppler ultrasonography has recently played an important role in objective measurement of joint laxity as a common etiology for LBP. Doppler imaging also in pregnant patients with LBP has been recommended as a safe and sensitive method. As conclusion, according to recent and most prestigious studies, focusing more on transabdominal muscle thickness can be considered as future approach in investigations.


Low Back Pain; Review Literature; Ultrasonic Diagnosis

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