Multifidus: Learn Your Muscles

The multifidus is one of your spinal muscles. What makes this particular muscle interesting is that it doesn’t insert on the vertebra above the origin. Instead, it skips 2-4 vertebrae to insert. Because the muscle skips vertebrae before inserting, it helps maintain and create the structure of the spine.

If you want to have a healthy spine, knowing how to care for this muscle is a must!

Location

multifidus and rotatores
Thanks to Niel Asher Healthcare for the image.

The multifidus is a long spinal muscle with many points of origin and insertion. According to The Concise Book of Muscles, the points of origin for the multifidus are:

“Posterior surface of sacrum, between the sacral foramina and posterior superior iliac spine. Mamillary processes (posterior borders of superior articular processes) of all lumbar vertebrae. Transverse processes of all thoracic vertebrae. Articular processes of lower four cervical vertebrae.”

So, basically, the muscle originates from specific points on the sacrum and all the vertebrae up to the lower four vertebrae of the neck. From these points of origin, the multifidus then inserts into the spinous process 2-4 vertebrae above the point of origin. These insertion points span from the fifth lumbar vertebrae (L5) up to the axis (C-2).

Function

As with many spinal muscles, when the multifidus works unilaterally, it causes lateral flexion and rotation to the opposite side as the working muscle. When the muscle works bilaterally, it causes spinal extension.

The multifidus also contributes to maintaining good posture and spinal stability whether standing, sitting, or moving.

Common Dysfunction

Improper lifting technique can cause strain or injury to the multifidus. For this reason, you should always be cautious to lift with bent knees, keep your back straight, and hold the object as close to you as possible.

Restoring or Maintaining Health

Please see your doctor if you think you may have hurt, pulled, strained, sprained, or tore this muscle. Your doctor can prescribe imaging, medicine, and therapy to help quickly and correctly diagnose your cause of pain.

If you are simply wanting to strengthen this muscle to avoid future injuries, there are many exercises you can do at home. Personally, I like to do the Pilates Swan dive preps. This exercise lets you compare what it feels like to specifically work the different areas of your spine. When lifting your upper body off the floor, make sure that your low back doesn’t take over. You should feel thoracic extension here, not lumbar work.

Other good strengthening exercises are: Locust pose, Cobra pose, Sphinx poseMermaid, Side angle pose, Triangle pose, Simple seated twist, and Obliques.

More Information

I consulted The Concise Book of Muscles by Chris Jarmey. Recently, the book was revised and is in its third edition. For some reason, the Amazon link wouldn’t pull up for this newest edition, but it is available on Amazon.

Also, I consulted my Flash Anatomy Muscles Flash Cards. If you really enjoy anatomy and want a tool to help you locate specific muscles correctly, I highly recommend these flash cards. I turn to them any time a client comes in with pain.

Here’s a link to buy them on Amazon. If you purchase them from this link, I earn a small commission.

Thank you so much for reading. If you find my information valuable, please consider supporting this website. With your support, I can gather and share more wonderful information about the human body.

What’s your favorite way to strengthen your spinal muscles? Let us know in the comments below.

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Sarah Stockett is STOTT certified in Matwork, Reformer, Cadillac, Chair, & Barrels, Injuries & Special Populations, and CORE; a Yoga Alliance RYT-200; and has studied Active Isolated Stretching. When she is not trying to discover the best exercises to get rid of pain, she likes watching movies and travelling with her family.

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