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Got Your Back

September 1, 2010

By Gerard Bochese

If you have low back issues, consider paying attention to your psoas (hip flexors) and your latissimus dorsi (large back muscles used for pulling and rowing).  The attention you give these muscles may be in the form of strengthening them or working on their flexibility or making sure they are firing correctly and are not engaged in faulty movement patterns.

The significance of these muscles to the low back has to do with their attachment points.  The psoas (hip flexor) is a big, strong muscle that bridges the spine to the legs.  It attaches to all the lumbar vertebrae (its point of origin) and inserts into the femur (upper leg).  If you develop weak hip flexors your pelvis will wander forward and create what is called a posterior tilt, which results in a lack of lumbar curvature and often leads to disc problems.  If the hip flexors are short and tight they will cause the spine to bend and rotate, which creates an anterior tilt that results in too much lumbar curvature and manifests as low back tightness.

The latissimus dorsi (lats – large back muscles) are important contributors to the stability of the low back based on their attachment to a sheath of fascia called the “thoraco-lumbar fascia”.  This sheath acts like guide wires on a suspension bridge to give back support.  The lats are very large, strong muscles that attach to this sheath of fascia, and when they contract can pull this sheath tighter and make it more stable.  If your lats are weak (if you can’t, for instance, do even one pull up) the stability of your low back is compromised.

Thus, the lattisums dorsi and psosas, based on their attachments to areas connected to the spine, are significant contributors to the stability and function of the low back.  It, therefore, becomes extremely important to keep these muscles strong and performing properly, and to maintain them at the proper length via stretching techniques in order to avoid low back pain and issues.

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