Age-related degeneration of the lumbar paravertebral muscles: Systematic review and three-level meta-regression

Alexander David Francis Dallaway, Christopher Kite, Corbin Griffen, Michael Duncan, Jason Tallis, Derek Renshaw, John Hattersley

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

25 Citations (Scopus)
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Background: Morphological changes of the lumbar spine muscles are not well characterised with ageing. To further the understanding of age-related degeneration of the lumbar spine musculature, normative morphological changes that occur within the paravertebral muscles must first be established.
Methods: A systematic review and meta-regressions were conducted adhering to PRISMA guidelines. Searches for published and unpublished data were completed in June 2019.
Results: Searches returned 4781 articles. 34 articles were included in the quantitative analysis. Three-level meta-analyses showed age-related atrophy (r = -0.26; 95% CI: -0.33, -0.17) and fat infiltration (r = 0.39; 95% CI: 0.28, 0.50) in the lumbar paravertebral muscles. Degenerative changes were muscle-specific and men (r = -0.32; 95% CI: -0.61, 0.01) exhibited significantly greater muscle atrophy than women (r = -0.24; 95% CI: -0.47, 0.03). Imaging modality, specifically ultrasound, also influenced age-related muscle atrophy. Measurements taken across all lumbar levels revealed the greatest fat infiltration with ageing (r = 0.58, 95% CI: 0.35, 0.74). Moderators explained a large proportion of between-study variance in true effects for muscle atrophy (72.6%) and fat infiltration (79.8%) models.
Conclusions: Lumbar paravertebral muscles undergo age-related degeneration in healthy adults with muscle, lumbar level and sex-specific responses. Future studies should use high-resolution imaging modalities to quantify muscle atrophy and fat infiltration.
Original languageEnglish
Article number110856
JournalExperimental Gerontology
Early online date30 Jan 2020
Publication statusPublished - May 2020

Bibliographical note

NOTICE: this is the author’s version of a work that was accepted for publication in Experimental Gerontology. Changes resulting from the publishing process, such as peer review, editing, corrections, structural formatting, and other quality control mechanisms may not be reflected in this document. Changes may have been made to this work since it was submitted for publication. A definitive version was subsequently published in Experimental Gerontology, 133, (2020) DOI: 10.1016/j.exger.2020.110856

© 2020, Elsevier. Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International


The following institutes provide support: the National Institute on Ageing (NIA), the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS), the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS), and NIH Roadmap for Medical Research under the following grant numbers: U01 AG027810 , U01 AG042124 , U01 AG042139 , U01 AG042140 , U01 AG042143 , U01 AG042145 , U01 AG042168 , U01 AR066160 , and UL1 TR000128 ’.


  • back muscles
  • lumbosacral region
  • sarcopenia
  • muscle degeneration
  • healthy aging

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)


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