Muscles in the Back

By Liz Brabston

Muscles in the Back

Muscles in the back

Muscles in the back

There are many muscles in the back, each of which help contribute to movement throughout your body, including the upper and lower body.  The muscles in the back help with standing up straight. They also help with bending forward (flexion) and backward (extension).  Further, they help with bending to the side and twisting (rotation), and reaching, extending, and pulling with your arms.  The deep back muscles are what give stability to your spine and provide support to your torso.  This article will provide more information about the muscle in your back that provides stability and support know as the multifidus.


Deep Muscles in the Back

The multifidus lays deep in the muscles of the back, starting at the sacral bone, working its way up both sides of the spine, attaching to the spinous process of each vertebra.  You can feel your spinous process if you run your hand along your spine as it is the bony projection of the back of each vertebra.  The multifidus inserts into the spinous process of C2 (your second vertebra in the cervical spine).

The multifidus is a smaller muscle in your back, yet it provides great stability for your trunk allowing for upright posture. If you picture a crane and how it has crossbars for stability, the same is for the multifidus muscle.  It’s fibers cross, attaching to the lumbar spine, allowing for extension, rotation, and side bending.  The stronger the multifidus is the decrease risks of injury to the back as well.


Injury to Muscles in the Back

Persons with low back impairment usually have atrophied fibers in the multifidus.  Evidence shows that exercises that specifically activate the multifidus will increase the function of these muscles and improve stability in the spine.


Strengthening Muscles in the Back

For strengthening muscle stabilizers in the back it is best to learn how to properly engage your transverse abdominis and multifidus.  The transverse abdominis muscle is a deep abdominal muscle and is one of four muscles that make up your inner core (the multifidus is another). Both the multifidus and transverse abdominis provide stability to the core and spine, allowing for upright posture in standing and walking.

This activation requires drawing the belly button toward your spine when laying on you back.  To palpate for proper activation of the transverse abdominis, place two fingers on the front of your hip bone and then move two fingers length toward the belly button and push deep while gently drawing in your belly button.

To palpate for the multifidus muscle, lay on your stomach or on your side and place two fingers to the side of the spinous process which is the boney projection you feel if you run your hand down your spine. Lift the opposite leg from the side, you are palpating to feel the multifidus “pop” up.



Once you are able to properly engage these muscles, there are several exercises you can to strengthen the multifidus and transverse abdominis to increase core and trunk stability and decrease pain in the back.  The following are just a few exercises that can be prescribed during your PT session:

  • Supine Transverse Abdominis Contraction (this exercise can be progressed with dynamic movement, making this more challenging for engaging the TrA.
  • Quadruped exercises such as bird dog
  • Planks
  • Pall of Press with resistance bands that engage your core muscles to resist against the rotation of your spine.


Learning how to activate the true core muscles in the back and strengthening these muscles will increase stability and decrease pain.  The stronger the multifidus and TrA, the better your posture control and alignment of the spine is, which in return will allow for increase tolerance for all daily activities.


JOI Fracture and Injury Care

JOI Physicians are currently offering ASAP fracture and injury care. This is a new option for patients who would like to avoid the emergency room if they have suffered a fracture or soft tissue injury. To learn more about this service, read this article about fracture and injury care. Make an appointment by calling (904)JOI-2000.

Please do not hesitate to call JOI for your medical needs. We have surgeons that can help diagnosis your tear and therapy staff waiting to help rehab you back to full health! Please call JOI-2000 or click the banner below to schedule with one of our specialists.

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By: Liz Brabston

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