The multifidi muscles are some of the most underused muscles in our body. This is the reality for many of us, but the problem is that they should be engaged throughout all of our daily activities. They lie very close to our spine and work to extend each individual vertebrae. This extension is especially important in our lower spine that is built to have a gentle lordotic (concave) curve.
Maintaining this gentle curve is important for our lower back health and more. If we lose the extension of our lumbar spine, then we change the building blocks upon which our thoracic and cervical vertebrae are stacked. Physical therapists assess this lumbar curve in patients with neck pain, shoulder pain, lower back pain, pelvic pain, hip pain and more because it is often the root of the cause of chronic pain and dysfunction. Your lumbar curve provides the central shape from which the rest of your skeleton is affected, setting your posture when sitting and standing. Your posture in turn, affects the tension of muscles, tendons, and ligaments, putting them in perfect position to react and contract, or in many cases of poor posture, to not react or contract at all.
Our multifidi muscles play an important role in holding us in optimal (neutral spine) posture. Their action is to extend the spine, so keeping them active prevents the flattening out of our lumbar curve. Our multifidi work together with our transversus abdominus (TA), pulling against one another, to give stability and strength to our lumbar spine as we lift, twist, and reach. Both of these muscles, are key components of our pelvic basket that coordinate along with our pelvic floor muscles, our inner thighs, and our deep hip rotators to prevent pelvic floor dysfunction.
Finding your multifidi and the extension of your lumbar spine is key to resolving/controlling your pelvic floor symptoms. I have included two of my favorite multifidi activation exercises below. Remember, it is important to keep your multifidi activated throughout your daily activities to hold your natural lordotic curve in sitting and standing positions. So a step beyond completing one of the workouts from the Hab It DVD daily, is to check your multifidi and lumbar posture at different times throughout your day!
Multifidi extensions (3 sets x 10 repetitions) – Position yourself on your stomach with your forehead on a towel roll to avoid having to turn your head to the side. In this position, perform 10 contractions of our multifidi muscles. These are very small muscles in between each segment of our spine that holds our natural curve or neutral spine. So, in this lying position, simply rotate your pelvis, lifting our tail bone up toward the ceiling. The movement is very subtle so you shouldn’t see a big rotation of your pelvis. Remember to SLOW DOWN holding each lift for a count before relaxing and repeating. (This exercise can also be completed in standing position)
Standing Hamstring Extensions (3 sets x 10 repetitions) – To begin, stand with your feet approximately 6 inches apart with a slight bend in your knees. From this position, hinge at the hips tilting your upper body forward. Take care to keep the arch or lordosis in your lower back as you hinge your upper body forward. It may help to think of sticking your buns out. When you reach a point of hamstring tension, stop your forward hinge and begin a set of 10 knee extensions, straightening your knees followed by small knee bends. 3 sets of 10 repetitions will produce good passive tension in your pelvic floor as well as a good hamstring stretch. Note that your mulitifidi have to work throughout this exercise to keep the arch or lordosis in your lower back.