The aim of this study was to systematically review the literature comparing muscle fiber typing in the back muscles of healthy subjects with low back pain (LBP) patients. Predefined keywords regarding muscle fiber typing and back muscles were combined in PubMed and Web of Science electronic search engines from inception to August 2014. Full-text articles were independently screened by 2 independent, blinded researchers. Full texts fulfilling the predefined inclusion criteria were assessed on risk of bias by 2 independent researchers, and relative data were extracted. Data were not pooled because of heterogeneity in biopsy locations and population. From the 214 articles that were identified, 18 met the inclusion criteria. These articles evaluated the muscle fiber type distribution or proportional fiber type area between muscles, muscle layers, men, and women or healthy subjects and LBP patients. Regarding muscle fiber type distribution, findings in healthy subjects and LBP patients show no or inconclusive evidence for intermuscular and interindividual differentiation. Studies evaluating the proportional fiber type area also suggest little intermuscular differentiation but provide plausible evidence that the proportional area occupied by type I fibers is higher in women compared to men. The evidence for differentiation based on the presence of low back pain is conflicting.
This study found that the evidence regarding muscle fiber typing in back muscles is either inconclusive or shows little differences. The most plausible evidence exists for differentiation in proportional fiber type area depending on sex.