Most people think of strengthening their abs when it comes to low back health, but neglect their spinal extensors. These muscles are located in the area of the low back and have many layers. Some of the muscles are large, torque producing muscles (i.e. the erector spinae) and some are small and have more of a stabilizing role. The multifidus muscle is thought to be one of the most important active stabilizers of the spine, especially in the ‘neutral zone’ where passive tissues such as ligaments are not on tension.
Interestingly, individuals with a history of one-sided (unilateral) low back pain can demonstrate atrophy of multifidus on the side where there pain is located. Also, some studies have shown that multifidus activity does not necessarily return to normal when low back pain has resolved and may continue to predispose someone to future low back pain episodes.
Fortunately, there are several good exercises for training all of the spinal extensors, including multifidus, which can result in hypertrophy (increased muscle size), increased strength and, potentially, decreased low back pain recurrence.
If you currently have back pain or experience bouts of back pain throughout the year, be sure to checkout our low back pain program where you can learn exercises to help reduce pain, improve function and reduce the likelihood of having future back pain episodes.