To illustrate the effectiveness of the Selective Functional Movement Assessment (SFMA) as a guide to exercise intervention on chronic non-specific low back pain (CNLBP).
A 23-year-old male volleyball athlete with CNLBP was evaluated using the SFMA to assess the degree of physical dysfunctions. And then two-stage exercise protocol was designed based on the results of SFMA. The athlete conducted the exercise intervention for 8 weeks, 1 h each time, three times a week. Transverse abdominal muscles and multifidus muscle thickness, the degree of low back pain, and the degree of physical dysfunctions were measured at pre-intervention, midintervention, and post-intervention.
Based on the results of SFMA, the exercise protocol in the first 4-week session was designed mainly to develop the mobility of ankle, hip, and chest and the stability of lumbar, hip, and knee, in order to improve core strength and gluteal muscle strength. The second 4-week session was an advanced stage with the increase of exercise load on the basis of flexibility and stability; its main purpose was to loosen the hamstring muscles and continue strengthening the core stability and finally help the participant to establish the correct movement pattern and solve the problems of dysfunctions. After 8-week exercise intervention, all movement patterns became functional/non-painful except the deep squat pattern; the Quebec Back Pain Disability Scale score decreased from 11 to 2; visual analog scale score decreased from 4 to 2; the thicknesses of the transverse abdominis muscles (right side: 0.2 vs. 0.31 cm, left side: 0.22 vs. 0.33 cm) and multifidus muscles (right side: 2.09 vs. 2.26 cm, left side: 2.15 vs. 2.29 cm) were both increased.
In this case, the SFMA helped to recognize problems related to mobility and stability on the hip joint, thoracic spine, and even areas far away from the lumbar spine in an athlete with CNLBP that were not seen with more conventional examination procedures. The improvements of physical function, the increase in deep core muscles thickness, and the released pain after exercise intervention all verified the effectiveness of SFMA to qualitatively analyze movement patterns at examination and to direct subsequent exercise intervention.