Date of Award

Fall 2012

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Biomedical Engineering


Michael Noseworthy


Dinesh Kumbhare



Committee Member

Srinivasan Harish


An objective measure of muscular low back pain (LBP) symptoms eludes clinicians. This study assessed efficacy of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the lumbar multifidus using diffusion tensor imaging (DTI), blood oxygen level dependent (BOLD) signal fractal dimension (FD) analysis and muscle cross sectional area (CSA) in LBP assessment. MRI results were compared to two questionnaires, the Oswestry disability index (ODI) and visual analog score (VAS).

Right-left asymmetry in both DTI metrics and T2-weighted (T2W) CSA were greater in the injured. Also, asymmetry measures were correlated with body mass index (BMI) but not age, height, or level of physical activity (measured via Godin activity questionnaire). The relationship between asymmetry and LBP symptoms in T2W and DTI scans increased for subjects with BMI below 35kg/m2.

BOLD FD did not scale with LBP symptoms. However, FD analysis showed promise following therapeutic Swedish massage, hypothesized as being related to local perfusion changes, indicating that FD is sensitive to changes in the lumbar muscle, just not LBP symptoms. Thus the BOLD FD does change with treatment, just not with the symptoms of LBP.

When combining data from multiple scan types, the symptoms of LBP correlated best with the unweighted mean of DTI fractional anisotropy (FA) and T2W CSA asymmetry, and the correlation was greatest (R2=0.88) when only symptomatic (not both symptomatic and control) subjects with BMIs from 18-25kg/m2 were considered. From these results there appears to be clinical utility in characterizing the symptoms of non-acute LBP using DTI and CSA.

McMaster University Library