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Thoracolumbar fascia and back pain

You may or may not have heard of the Thoracolumbar fascia and if not then what is it and how might it relate to back pain?

Well, the Thoracolumbar fascia (which we will call the TLF from now on) is an extension of connective tissue comprised of 3 layers that envelope several muscle s in the lumbar region and provides an attachment site for other muscles.thoracolumbar fascia

In anatomy diagrams and images it looks like a white diamond covering the lumbar. This shape is created due to the attachment of the Latissimus Dorsi muscles and the Iliac crests of the Pelvis.

The TLF has 3 layers (Superficial, middle and deep). The deepest layer (closet to the front of the body) begins from the lumbar spine and passes in front of the Quadratus Lumborum muscle, meeting the middle layer once it has passed lateral to it. The middle layer originates from the lumbar spine behind or posterior to the Quadratus lumborum and in front of the Erector spinae muscles that traverse the length of our spine. The most superficial or posterior layer begins in the centre of the spine from the spinous processes (which we can easily feel and usually see as bony lumps in the back of the spine) and wraps around the erector spinae muscles to meet the middle and deep layers.

These three layers meet the Transverse abdominis muscle, which is responsible for compressing our abdominal contents and therefore increasing intra-abdominal pressure.

thoracolumbar fasciaThis Transverse abdominal muscle is commonly the target of ‘core strengthening’ exercises in gyms as it is believed to assist in producing stability in the lumbar spine by tensing the TLF.

What is true about the TLF is that it allows our erector spinae muscles to produce up to 30% more force due to the way it encloses and invests the muscles.

As it is the attachment site for Latissimus Dorsi and fibres of Gluteus maximus it also assists in maintaining stability of the Sacroiliac joint when we are moving or standing erect by producing forces in opposing directions and assisting in ‘force closure’ of this joint.

 So what does this all mean?

Well through study and research we have found out how important this Thoracolumbar fascia is for stability of our pelvis, providing additional strength to our muscles and assisting in stabilising the lumbar spine during movement.

thoracolumbar fasciaWhat we haven’t discussed and won’t discuss in this post is how massage techniques such as friction and stripping can assist in breaking down adhesions in tissues and realigning scar tissue in order to prevent weakening of the tissues and ‘tightening’ of the tissues.

If TLF helps stabilise our pelvis and spine then wouldn’t we want to give it the best chance to do that by keeping it free of connective tissue adhesions and scar tissue build up following injury and overuse? OF COURSE!

If you suffer from back pain then perhaps it is due to a muscle imbalance, or perhaps the back pain is caused by reduced movement due to adhesions.

 

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