Updated: Oct 18, 2020
The MULTIFIDUS is a muscle located either side of the spine that runs from the sacrum to C2, with individual bundles of muscle fibres spanning 3 vertebrae in order to achieve segmental stability as well as global.
These individual bundles are known as fasciculi, which vary in length depending on their location within the spine. The fasciculi originate from the transverse process of one vertebrae and run obliquely upward and medially, before inserting onto the spineous process of the vertebrae 2-4 levels above. (Again the exact length depends on the location within the spine.)
Due to the unique arrangement of the muscle fibers, MULTIFIDUS can be classed as both deep and superficial and therefore play multiple roles within the body.
In my experience it is really difficult to :
know if MULTIFIDUS, itself, is weak or damaged and
know which segment is weak or damaged.
This should be left to a specialist doctor or physical therapist.
And even then its hard for them to diagnose, 100% accurately.
On the flip side, I’m not saying don’t train it or rehabilitate it, but do it in the knowledge that:
there will be other muscles kicking in, activating and co-contracting and
you are probably already training it without knowing about it!
A few moments ago you just found out about MULTIFIDUS and now I'm telling you, you have been training it without realizing it?…………er……. well, yes!
Think about it, MULTIFIDUS co-contracts with the transverses abdominis, pelvic floor, obliques and other core stabilizing muscles (to name but a few). Therefore most bilateral and almost all unilateral exercises should utilize the MULTIFIDUS, as a co-contractor in bilateral exercises and as a stabilizer against unwanted rotation in unilateral exercises.
MULTIFIDUS is colored here in dark green! (not bad if I do say so myself). Thank to the Anatomy Coloring Book.
Obviously when looking at this image it is clear that MULTIFIDUS will not act alone. It is very much a co-contractor. Just look at the vast number of muscles surrounding it.
When there is a dysfunctional level within the MULTIFIDUS, it is important that we isolate the dysfunction, work on it and then integrate it back into a well designed rehabilitation programme, so that MULTIFIDUS is doing its fair share of the work and not relying solely on Transversus Abdominis, obliques and/or pelvic floor.
“ohhhhhh yes, I feel the burn in the Right L4-5 Multifidus”
Said no one ever.
NOTE: you are not going to feel your MULTIFIDUS working!
Gathering together all the information above, any unilateral movements or rotational movements will be utilizing MULTIFIDUS. You are probably already including some great exercises within your programme, therefore continue training, there is likely no need to change your exercise selection, as long as your programme is evidence based and well balanced.
Ideas include, but are not limited to:
4 point kneeling, single arm reaches, single leg reaches, contralateral arm and leg reaches.
torso rotational movements, supine obliques, seated twists, half kneeling rotation holds.
If the MULTIFIDUS needs to be as isolated as part of a rehabilitation protocol and certain level/s of fasciculi targeted, then slower, smaller and more precise exercises will likely be required.
Side lying with top knee and hip flexed to about a 90 degree angle and placed on a roller or ball, anterior to the body.
A mobility exercise might consist of rolling the chosen prop away and then using deep Transverses, obliques, MULTIFIDUS and breath to draw it back in towards the spine.
Shown above is a superior view.
What we are looking for here is total control on the roll away, without going to far and not being able to pull the thigh back in and keep the lumbo-pelvic alignment under control.
Shown below is the same exercise from an anterior view.
A stability exercise might consist of focusing on breath. On an exhale engaging abdominals, pelvic floor and MULTIFIDUS and then hovering the knee away from the chosen prop.
Below is the superior view.
What we are looking for here is that the abdominals and MULTIFIDUS form such a connection that they feel to the client as if they are doing the lifting of the leg, without putting pressure or changing the shape of the lumbar spine.
Below is the anterior view