I once heard a man say “having means nothing, unless you know how to use it”. While this man was referring to his personal ownership of an Olympic sized pool in his backyard, which he never used because he didn’t know how to swim, the same can be said of our bodies. While we possess these amazing physical vessels, albeit some functioning on all cylinders and others barely running on one, most of us lack a true understanding of how our human architecture actually works. The more we learn and understand the inner working of our bodies, even just beginning with basic functions and anatomy, the stronger the foundation of connection that will lead us to more fully and inhabit our bodies to their own optimal ability.
I would like to take this opportunity to introduce you to the multifidi – the deepest layer of muscles that run alongside the spine. This small but powerful group of muscle fibers span the length of the spine, starting at the posterior surface of the sacrum close to the midline of the spine and run up the vertebral column to end at the base of the skull. These thick but short muscles have multiple insertion points along the spinous process of each vertebra.
The multifidi provide stability and support to the spinal column, allowing each vertebra to work optimally and safeguard against spinal joint degeneration. By keeping the spine upright and in alignment (maintaining the gentle lordotic curve in the low back) these muscles aid in taking pressure off vertebral discs and distributing body weight along the entire spine. Maintaining the extension of the low back is crucial since this is the base that the skeletal system rests upon and affects your posture when sitting and standing, which in turn affects the tension of muscles, ligaments and tendons. The health, stability and strength of the multifidi is of utter importance, as they control the positioning of the spinal vertebra relative to each other and the sacrum. This also stabilizes the spinal column during back bending (extension), lateral bending (lateral flexion and extension) and rotation of the spine, simple motions that you perform daily.
Even though these muscles are small they are always one step ahead of the action. The multifidi have a keen psychic ability to contract, becoming activated (protecting the spine and preparing it for movement) before any action has begun. Keeping in mind that everything is connected and no muscle is an island, the mutfifidi must call upon its neighbors and friends to bring strength, stability and mobility to the spine. The transverse abdominus and multifidi have an oppositional relationship that helps to provide stability and strength as the torso lifts, twists and extends. Both of these muscles, as well as the muscles of the pelvic floor, inner thigh muscles, and deep hip rotators aid in maintaining a properly functioning core.
The importance and significance of the multifidi would have one believe that this muscle group is engaged throughout our daily activities, but the reality is that they are some of the most underused muscles of the human body. While intention and imagery can be brought into any exercise or daily routine to aid activation of the area or the particular muscle that is being targeted, for me, nothing could help until I actually knew that I had it! Once I discovered I had these amazing muscles and that I could harness the power of my multifidi to heal my low back dysfunction, I felt empowered through self care and encouraged to learn more in order to maintain a pain free lifestyle.
Stay tuned for my follow up post on Friday with tips and YTU poses that empowered me to maintain a strong healthy spine.