Did you know that after your body is injured, it does everything in its power to not only protect the injury, but to also forget it? Without you even being aware, your body begins to tighten the surrounding tissues, forming a cast with the surrounding muscles and tendons. To avoid pain, your brain even decreases the number of nerve signals it sends to the muscles, sometimes to almost nothing. You may have felt this after spraining your ankle. Your hips or lower leg may feel tight as you change your walking pattern as the ankle heals. The chance of you reinjuring the ankle is much higher, because it’s as if your brain has completely forgotten it was ever attached to your leg!
The same is true for muscles all in your body, including a very important one most of us are not even aware we possess. On either side of your spine, from the cervical spine all the way to the sacrum, are these wonderful muscles known collectively as the multifidi. Besides sounding a bit magical, the multifidi, assist in spinal rotation and support. Every time you think of standing up from a seated position, the mutlifidi are engaged without you even being aware! When you rotate your spine around its axis, the multifidi help to rotate each vertebrae group around the next, turning your entire spine into an erector set.
The most interesting fact about the multifidi isn’t when they function properly- it’s when they fizzle. After a back injury, your brain shuts down innervation to the multifidi and other spinal supporters, such as the transverse abdominus. So now, you not only have an injury to the area, but your brain is no longer talking to the muscles that help support your spine! As a result, the muscles that weren’t made to primarily support your spine are working double overtime to keep you upright, and you may feel this as tightness and discomfort throughout your body, as your muscles and joints desperately try to compensate for the loss of support.
Some Yoga Tune Up® poses that are wonderful for locating and reawakening the multifidi are Jithara Parvartonasana (revolved abdominal pose), Pasasana Twist at wall, and Tadasana. These little guys work hard to support you, so don’t forget them and give your multifidi a shout out next time you stand up!
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