Physical therapist Stephanie Spencer says “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.”  And the more control you gain, the greater your potential for range of motion.  But this can also be a problem.  “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.

Getting back to the corset analogy again.  If the vertebral arches are kind of like the grommets of your corset, what is its “belly?”  With a corset, fabric is being pulled back and tighter.  Here, the “fabric” is your deepest abdominal muscle, the transversus abdominus.

Check this out from the Nicholas Institute of Sports Medicine and Athletic Trauma website:

The transverse work with the multifidi to ‘corset’ the torso.

Certain muscles of the back that stabilize the spine are reflexively inhibited (shutdown) after injury [and] do not spontaneously recover even if patients are pain free with a return to normal activity levels….These muscles include the lumbar multifidi and the transversus abdominus….the deepest abdominal muscle.  [Together the two] function…to form a deep internal corset that acts to stabilize the spine during movement.

Again, from Ann Archer’s excellent article, I learned that researchers in a 2009 study at UC San Diego discovered that:

The sarcomere, or the area where muscle contraction happens, is much smaller [on the multifidus] than in other muscles.  But when the multifidus is put on a stretch, as when you bend forward, it actually gets stronger.  This is unlike most muscles which, when lengthened, lose their strength.  Something different is at work in this muscle!

According to Richard Lieber, PhD, a lead author in the 2009 study, “Our research shows that [the multifidus] is actually the strongest muscle in the back because of its unique design.”

So these pudgy little finger muscles, buried deep in your back, are oh-so-awesome.  Sit up now and say thank you!  Or better yet, go get your Yoga Tune Up® on and strengthen your miraculous multifidi with some of our exercises.

Read part 1 of this article.

Learn about our Therapy Ball programs for back pain.

Learn about Yoga Tune Up at home.

REFERENCES (in order of citation, parts 1 and 2)

Archer, Anne.  Website at  January 12, 2009.

Musculoskeletal Consumer Review.

Beil, Andrew R.  Trail Guide to the Body:  How to locate muscles, bones and more.  Third Addition.  Boulder.  Books of Discovery.  2005.

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

Spencer, Stepanie.  Website at

Nicholas Institute of Sports Medicine and Athletic Trauma.

Archer, Anne.  Website at  January 12, 2009.

Lieber, Richard L. (and others).  “Architectural Analysis and Intraoperative Measurements Demonstrate the Unique Design of the Multifidus Muscle for Lumbar Spine Stability.” The Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery (American).  2009;91:176-185.  Website at

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