Human Movement Science & Functional Anatomy of the:


by Brent Brookbush MS, PES, CES, CSCS, ACSM H/FS



Multifidus - from the latin roots "multi" and "findire", translating roughly to "to split into many parts".

  • Origin and Insertion:
    • Lumbar: The lumbar multifidus span between two and four segments - the deepest fibers span from lamina to mammillary process of the vertebrae two below, the longer fibers arising from the spinous process and inserting into the mammillary process or the vertebrae or comparable area of the sacrum 4 to 5 vertebrae below.  The longest fibers (L1, L2 and L3) have attachment to the posterior superior iliac spine, while some of the deepest fibers have attachment to the capsule of the zygapophyseal joints themselves.
    • Thoracic and Cervical Spine:  The multifidus are less developed in the thoracic and cervical spine where they originate from the spinous process, cross 2-4 segments, inserting into the transverse process below.
    • The multifidus are the deepest and most medial of the paraspinal muscles; abutting the zygapophysial joints.  These muscle lay between the spinous process and erector spinae, and deep to the superficial layer of the thoracolumbar fascia in the lumbar spine.
    • The lumbar multifidus may be palpated.  With your patient/client relaxed in prone position, place your fingers just lateral to the spinous process, but medial to thick lumbar erectors.  As the multifidus work synergistically with the transverse abdominis - having your patient/client "draw-in" without compensatory flexion or extension will "inflate" the multifidus muscles under your fingers.  If you press a little deeper and rub superiorly or inferiorly you will feel the individual fascicles running obliquely.
  • Nerve: Medial branch of the dorsal ramus of the spinal nerve - segmentally innervated
  • Action:
    • Extensor of the lumbar vertebrae
    • When acting unilaterally may contribute to lateral flexion and ipsilateral rotation (15)
    • Deep fibers may assist in increasing zygapophysial capsule tension, ensuring the capsule is not impinged during extension (13)
    • Segmental (vertebrae on vertebrae) stabilization and alignment of vertebrae, especially in the lumbar spine

    Integrated Function:

    • Stabilization:  
      • The multifidus have relatively low receptor density when compared to the transversospinalis, interspinalis, intertransverserii (deep muscles of the spine), and even the erector spinae muscles (13, 15).  The implication that these muscles are key in segmental stabilization (vertebrae on vertebrae alignment and stiffness) is due to there relatively short length, position close to the axis of rotation, and the well organized segmental neural innervation - each fascicle is innervated by the nerve exiting the segment it crosses (13, 15).  It is likely that the activity of these muscle is paired with receptor activation within the facet joint capsules (ruffini endings and pancini corpuscles), and muscle spindle activity of the inter- and transverso-spinal muscles.
    • Eccentrically Decelerates:
      • Eccentrically deceleration of flexion
      • Eccentric deceleration of contralateral flexion and contralateral rotation
      • Eccentric deceleration of anterior translation (superior vert