Archive for the ‘Multifidus’ Category

29 September

Multifidus Muscle – The Core: Part 3 – Week 4 of Pilates


The multifidus muscle group is the posterior aspect of the core.  The transversus abdominis could be thought of as the corset and the mustifidi as the laces in the back.  The two work together to support the core.  The multifidus group is relatively new to the scientific community as  muscles worthy of interest or research.  Over the last few years though, there has been an abundance of research done on the multifidus group that is quite interesting to those interested in movement or rehabilitation from back injury.

The multifidus muscles are an intermediate to deep group of spinal muscles that are located on both sides of your spine, and run from your pelvis and low back all the way to your neck.  Each muscle spans 2-4 vertebrae. The multifidus muscles are thicker at the bottom toward the sacrum and thinner toward the neck or cervical spine.  It looks like a scalloped design from the top to the bottom.  The multifidus group is know to co-contract with the transversus abdominis.

Besides working with the transversus abdominis to help stabilize the low back, the multifidus group attaches to the deep laminae of the posterior thoracodorsal  fascia, separating from the gluteus maximus muscle and below the posterior sacroiliac ligaments to blend with the sacrotuberous ligament (Lee, p 34).  So, the multifidus group helps to stabilize the pelvis and sacrum.  Basically, these muscles help to stabilize the sacrum, illium and lumbar.

Multifidi is the plural form of these muscles and in latin it means many to cleave.  Most anatomical texts use the muscles in the singular form or multifidus.  When these muscles contract on opposite sides of the spine, it extends the spine.  When the muscles contract on the same side of the spine, it side bends the spine in that direction and rotates the spine in the opposite direction.

The multifidus muscle group has become very well known in the last few years because of new research linking it to back pain.  “ Researchers are now finding out that in some people with low back pain, it’s not always the whole multifidus muscle  group that is the problem.  In many cases, it’s just a single multifidus muscle at only one level of the spine that’s not working (Johnson p. 8).”  Due to the fact that there are many multifidi muscles that span the vertebrae from the sacrum to the cervical spine, it makes it possible that a single multifidus muscle can act upon and articulate one vertebrae at a time.  Although this amount of control helps gain a greater range of motion in the spine, it can also lead to possible problems in the spine.  For example, if one of the multifidi muscles are not participating in movement then that level of the spine is held victim to movement from above and below the area.  Thus, that part of the back can become stiff or suffer the consequences of being pushed and pulled without support.

So, a well trained multifidus group is active in all levels of the spine.  You know your multifidus group is working well if you can articulate every vertebrae of your spine and have a well connected core while moving.

Exercises for the Multifidus

1. Multifidus Awareness. The multifidus group is more challenging to find than the transversus abdominis muscle.  The easiest place to feel the multifidus group is to lie on your side with your legs bent and place your hand on your low back.  When you exhale, connect your transversus to your multifidus muscles.  You may feel a slight plumping under your hand.  It will feel like a ripe avocado, or a sponge being filled with water.  Yes, it is that subtle.  If you are unable to feel this, have someone pull on your top leg slightly.  Again, connect the transversus to multifidus group on the exhale, have your friend pull your leg as you resist.  That will increase the pull on the multifidus group and help  you feel that muscle under your hand.  If you still cannot feel this muscle you may need to stretch is out by lying over a physio ball, or doing a few cat backs.  Remember, visualizing the muscle working is always important for neural improvement even if you cannot feel the muscle.


2. Clam, or Multifidus Awareness with Leg Lift. Same position as above.  Exhale and connect the transversus abdominis to the multifidus group.  Pull the knee slightly in toward you while thinking about someone pulling it in the other direction, and lift the knee toward the ceiling.  Lower the knee and repeat.



Johnson, Jim PT. The Back Pain Solution. New Harbinger Publications, Inc. Oakland, CA. 2002.

Lee, Diane.  The Pelvic Girdle. Harcourt Publishers Limitied. Edinburgh, UK. 2000.