In this post: The levatores costarum muscles extend, flex, and rotate your spine. They also help you breathe. Learn how to keep these important spinal muscles healthy.
There are two levatores costarum muscles: the levatores costarum longi and the levatores costarum breves. These two muscles are important spinal muscles. They help you extend your spine, bend to the side, rotate, and they even help you breathe.
In order to have optimal spinal health, these muscles must be healthy and working correctly. Read below to find out more about these muscles and what you can do to keep them healthy.
Where Are the Levatores Costarum Muscles?
The origin of the levatores costarum longi is on the transverse processes of the 7th-10th thoracic vertebrae. The transverse processes are the bony sides of the vertebrae, and the 7th-10th thoracic vertebrae are located in the lower half of your rib cage.
The levatores costarum longi inserts on the outer surface two ribs below its point of origin. So, this means the points of insertion are on the 9th-12th vertebrae. Specifically, it inserts between the tubercle and the angle.
The origin of the levatores costarum breves is on the transverse processes of the 7th cervical and upper 11 thoracic vertebrae. Your 7th cervical vertebrae is the bottom vertebra of your neck, and the thoracic vertebrae are directly below it.
The levatores costarum breves inserts on the outer surface of the rib directly below its point of origin. This means that it inserts on the 1st-12th thoracic vertebrae (which is all of the thoracic vertebrae). Specifically, it inserts between the tubercle and the angle.
What Do These Muscles Do?
The levatores costarum muscles have four main functions. Both the longi and breves muscles work to:
- Elevate the ribs as you inhale,
- Extend the vertebral column like when you stretch backward in your chair,
- Flex your spine laterally like when you bend straight to the side, and
- Rotate your spine slightly. (With the way these muscles work, the muscles on the left help rotate you to the right and vice versa.)
What Happens When These Muscles Don’t Work?
If you have issues performing any of the above functions, you might have dysfunctional levatores costarum muscles. This can be particularly noticeable when you take a deep breath.
Because of the relationship between the levatores costarum muscles and the intercostals (which help move the ribs when you breathe), you might guess that you have levatores costarum issues if your rib cage is unable to expand when you take a deep breath.
How to Keep Your Levatores Costarum Muscles Healthy
If you believe you have injured your levatores costarum muscles, contact your doctor. He or she can order all of the appropriate imaging, medicine, and therapy to help you heal as quickly as possible.
For those who are just wanting to maintain the health of these muscles, I have great news: with all of the functions of these muscles, keeping them healthy is relatively easy. By practicing breathing into the back part of your rib cage, spinal extension, spinal side flexion, and spinal rotation; you can keep the levatores costarum muscles healthy.
The great part about breathing is that you don’t have to use a specific breathing technique. You can just be mindful about what you’re doing.
However, if you do want to read some directions for therapeutic breathing, I recommend Pilates breathing. By using Pilates breathing, you can mindfully open the back part of your body.
2. Spinal extension
To extend your spine, you can practice any number of yoga poses or Pilates exercises. In yoga, these poses are often referred to as heart-opening poses. Some yoga poses and Pilates exercises that incorporate spinal extension are:
- Fish pose,
- Cobra pose,
- Bridge pose,
- Bow pose,
- Upward facing dog,
- Breast stroke preps (and Breast stroke),
- Swimming prep (and Swimming), and
- Swan dive.
3. Side flexion
Honestly, there aren’t as many side flexion exercises out there. However, here are some of my favorites:
- side bend while in Tadasana,
- Gate pose,
- Banana pose,
- Reverse warrior,
- Infinity pose,
- Half circle pose,
- Side kick prep, and
- Side kick kneeling.
4. Spinal rotation
To practice spinal rotation, try:
- Spinal rotation,
- Spine twist,
- Obliques roll back,
- Simple seated twist,
- Half lord of the fishes pose,
- Marichyasana C,
- Windshield wipers, or
- Simply add a twist to many of your favorite yoga poses.
Want More Information?
For those who are more interested in technical terminology and smaller muscles, I recommend Flash Anatomy Muscles Flash Cards. Any time a client comes to me with pain, I use these flash cards.
If you want to learn what I do to help my clients become pain-free, sign up for access to my Free Resource Library. Plus, you’ll get weekly emails with all my tips and tricks to keep you happy and healthy.
Do you have any other suggestions for strengthening or stretching the levatores costarum muscles? Let us know in the comments below.