Muscle of the Month – Multifidus Muscles

It’s June 1st, time for Muscle of the Month.

The multifidus muscles are groups of muscles that are deep and are attached to the spine. They attach from your tailbone (sacrum) at every spinal level all the way up to the top of your neck, and span 3 spinal segments per muscle. These thin muscles are mostly responsible for maintaining posture and alignment in all activities, and are considered part of the back core muscles along with the erector spinae muscles. These muscles work in concert with the other core muscles; the deep abdominal muscles, pelvic floor muscles, hip muscles, and diaphragm. Training these muscles specifically can be done with Pilate’s, Yoga, Egoscue Technique, and other methods including physio balls or stability training devices like Bosu Balls.

People with lower back pain usually have weak and tight multifidi muscles which results in pain, decreased performance, and back injuries. Long standing weakness of the multifidi muscle can lead to early spinal degeneration, disc degeneration, and eventually disc herniation. If you ask any triathlete what it is like to train with lower back pain and you will find out how it can impair your training, or completely prevent you from training, and racing.

In our office we see all types of athletes coming in with weak spinal stabilizers causing lower back pain. The most common causes of having weak multifidi would be sedentary jobs requiring many hours seated, poor posture while being seated, and long hours driving. The second most common cause would be an injury from heavy or repetitive lifting, or from an accident or fall. If you are in this type of situation or have had a previous back injury, and you do not have a regular stretching and strengthening routine for your lower back it will let you know. If on top of the above described situation you are a triathlete spending 5-10 hours on your bike per week, and 3-6 hours running per week, and swimming this could aggravate an already weak and tight lower back.

Lower back pain that does not resolve itself within 4-6 weeks should really cause you to seek professional help to identify the source of your lower back pain, and help with a rehabilitation program to get you back on track. Treatments that help relieve lower back pain from tight multifidi muscles and other causes of lower back pain are; chiropractic care, physical therapy, massage, acupuncture, Active Release techniques, Egoscue technique, Graston Technique, Alexander technique to name a few.

Dr. David Ness is a certified sports chiropractor practicing in New Paltz, N.Y.  Dr. Ness is the official chiropractor and Active Release Techniques provider for the Vassar College Athletic Dept.  Dr. Ness  has worked at the Lake Placid Ironman event as part of the ART treatment team since 2004.  Dr. Ness has been the ART provider for the Hudson Valley Tri Club since 2005 years providing free ART care after club races.  Dr. Ness also provides treatment at NYTC races around the NY metro area, and continues to work as part of the SOS Triathlon post-race care team, and at American Zofingen Ultra Duathlon.