Exploring the multifidus muscles
Muscles come and go in fashion. For a while, the psoas was often the subject of media attention. Then it was the piriformis. These days the multifidus muscles are in the spotlight, particularly in relationship to back pain. You can read more about research on the relationship between multifidus and back pain HERE.
The multifidus muscles belong to a group of muscles called the transversospinalis group. Transversospinalis could be broken down into transverse, which means running across something, and spinalis, which refers to the spine. So, this broader group of muscles are all muscles that run from the vertebrae of the spine in the transverse direction. The multifidus muscles are one group of transversospinalis muscles.
What does the name of the multifidus muscles mean?
The name multifidus comes from two Latin words. “Multi” means many. And, “fidere” means to cleave or split into parts. From that you could get a muscle that is split into many parts. These muscles are actually a group of small muscles along the spine that work together.
Where do the multifidus muscles attach?
This group of muscles are located along the spine and deep to (underneath) the erector spinae muscles.
They originate on the posterior sacrum, posterior superior iliac spine, and transverse processes of all vertebrae from the lumbar to C3.
Each multifidus muscle runs from its origin to insert 2-4 vertebrae above that on the spinous processes of the lumbar vertebrae through C2.
What actions do the multifidus muscles do?
They function bilaterally to extend the spine. Unilaterally they contribute to side-bending or flexion of the spine to the same side. Unilaterally they also rotate the spine to the opposite side.
Poses where these muscles contract
In shalabhasana, these muscles contract to extend the spine
Poses where these muscles are lengthened
These muscles are lengthened in paschimottanasana and other forward bends.