Breaking Down Multifidus Muscle Pain: Causes and Symptoms

multifidus muscle pain

Chronic low back pain is one of the most common ailments experienced by people today. While there are many causes for this discomfort, it’s often overlooked that the multifidus muscle could be to blame.

The multifidus muscle is a deep spinal stabilizer located along both sides of your lumbar spine and plays an important role in stabilizing your core and protecting your spine during movement. Unfortunately, this muscle is prone to inhibition, where it shuts down and ultimately becomes weak. This inhibition and weakness of the multifidus muscle often goes undetected or untreated, leading to chronic low back pain which is often misdiagnosed as “non-specific.”

In this article we will look at what exactly the lumbar multifidus muscle does, some of the most common causes of chronic low back pain related to it as well as potential symptoms that may indicate an issue with it.

What is the Lumbar Multifidus Muscle and What Does it Do?

The lumbar multifidus muscle is a deep spinal stabilizer that spans along both sides of your lumbar spine. It originates from the middle of your spine on each spinal segment and fans out in multiple layers that work together to help stabilize your spine.

The multifidus muscles are also responsible for controlling the position of your vertebrae which helps maintain proper posture. When functioning correctly, it helps prevent chronic low back pain while sitting, standing, or engaging in physical activities.

Causes of Multifidus Muscle Dysfunction

To carry out everyday activities, our muscles and central nervous system (brain and spinal cord) are in constant communication. The brain sends out motor control signals which then travel down the spinal cord to that trigger muscles to contract or relax. While, the back muscles send sensory feedback, called proprioception. This is called neuromuscular control and from simple activities like sitting in a chair to complex movements like lifting heavy objects, it plays a major role in our everyday lives.

The loss of neuromuscular control of the multifidus muscle is a main source of chronic low back pain.

When the multifidus muscle is inhibited, it will atrophy and over time degenerate to where normal lean muscle tissue is replaced with intramuscular fatty deposits.

Low back diagnosis know to be associated with Multifidus Muscle dysfunction

1. Muscle Strain or Sprain

This type of injury typically occurs when the lumbar multifidus muscles and tendons become overstretched due to sudden movements, such as lifting a heavy object or participating in sports. These types of injuries can cause pain, swelling, and tenderness in the area.

2. Herniated Disc

This occurs when a vertebral disc bulges, slips, or ruptures due to wear and tear over time or injury. The herniated disc can put pressure on the surrounding nerves which leads to nerve pain in that particular area of the spine.

3. Degenerative Disc Disease

Dis degeneration or breakdown of the intervertebral discs is directly related to increasing patient age. This degenerative process results in the discs becoming less flexible and can cause pain in the area.

4. Arthritis

Osteoarthritis, more commonly seen in the elderly, can cause a buildup of bone spurs due to wear and tear, which puts pressure on the multifidus muscle which can lead to pain.

5. Spinal Stenosis

This condition occurs when the intervertebral spaces in the spine become narrowed, which compresses the surrounding structures such as nerves, resulting in pain symptoms.

6. Poor Posture

Poor posture, such as slouching or hunching the shoulders, can lead to multifidus muscle weakness which can cause pain.

Symptoms of Low Back Pain Caused by Multifidus Dysfunction

Knowing the symptoms of multifidus muscle-related pain can help you diagnose the issue and determine the best course of treatment. Common symptoms of multifidus muscles dysfunction and pain include:

1. Localized Pain in the Lower Back

A localized pain in the lower back is associated with muscle spasms and a feeling of instability.

2. Pain That Worsens With Simple Movements

Pain in the lower back may is associated with simple seemingly trivial movements such as reaching for an item, bending over a bit to brush your teeth, or bending to wash dishes.

3. Pain after Maintaining a Static Position

Pain and spasm that is set off after a prolonged period in one posture such as sitting or standing.

Diagnosis and Treatment

Diagnosing and treating chronic back pain requires a thorough process to properly identify and address the underlying cause. This typically involves:

1. Medical History and Physical Examination

A medical history and physical examination are the first steps in diagnosing multifidus muscle-related pain. During a medical history, a pain physician will ask questions about the patient’s symptoms, previous treatments, and what activities cause the pain. During a physical examination, the doctor will assess muscle function through a series of tests designed to identify multifidus muscle dysfunction.

2. Diagnostic Imaging Tests

These tests can include X-rays, CT scans, MRI scans, or bone scans. X-rays are often used to look for fractures, while CT scans and MRI scans can provide a detailed image of the soft tissues in the area. These scans can help identify multifidus muscle atrophy as well as herniated discs, bone spurs, and other issues.

3. Physical Therapy Exercises

Physical therapy is often effective at reversing multifidus muscle dysfunction and treating associated problems such as poor mobility and balance. Exercises are often prescribed and may include stretching, motor control and core stability exercises, and general full-body movement retraining.

Here is a full guide on effective lower back rehab exercises that you can start with for improving motor control and range of motion for your low back pain.

4. Medications

Medication may be prescribed to reduce inflammation, alleviate pain, and relax the muscles. These medications can include nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), muscle relaxants, and corticosteroids.

6. Surgery (in Severe Cases)

In severe cases, surgery may be necessary to repair or replace damaged structures in the spine. This is typically only done when an obvious surgical lesion is identified on imaging and is associated with your pain such as a herniated disc or spinal stenosis.

In the majority of cases, there is no need for surgery, and when physical therapy and medications are not enough to restore multifidus muscle function and reduce pain, patients can achieve improved function and quality of life through minimally invasive restorative neurostimulation called ReActiv8. ReActiv8 has been proven to be effective in reducing mechanical-related chronic low back pain, with 83% of patients seeing considerable improvements.

Prevention of Multifidus Muscle Related Low Back Pain

The best treatment for multifidus muscle pain is prevention. Here are some tips to help prevent multifidus muscle pain:

1. Regular Exercise and Stretching

Regular exercise and stretching can help maintain multifidus muscle and other core muscle function and improve flexibility. Start with low-impact exercises such as walking, swimming, or yoga and gradually increase intensity over time. Also, don’t hesitate to work with a physical therapist or personal trainer to devise a customized exercise plan for your needs. Numerous benefits can be gained from maintaining a regular exercise routine.

2. Avoiding Prolonged Periods of Sitting or Standing

Prolonged periods of sitting or standing can put additional strain on the multifidus muscle causing spinal instability, injury, and low back pain. So, be sure to get up and move around every 20-30 minutes or so to reduce the risk of spine pain.

3. Develop Good Nutrition Habits

Simply following good nutrition habits can help you maintain healthy body weight and nutritional status. Good nutrition and hydration are fundamental to maintaining your activity level and proper movement and core muscle function.

4. Awareness of Mental Health

Taking care of your mental health can go a long way to prevent low back pain as well as provide you with a good outlook to treat and overcome a low back pain episode if it occurs. Maintaining a positive outlook, being in a healthy work environment, and valuing friendships and good interpersonal relationships are keys to maintaining good mental health.


Multifidus muscle-related low back pain can be a source of discomfort and impede your daily activities. By following the tips outlined above, you can reduce your risk of developing low back pain. However, if you experience persistent or severe pain, be sure to seek medical attention. Your doctor can provide a diagnosis and create a personalized treatment plan to help you manage your symptoms. With proper care, you can reduce multifidus muscle-related pain and maintain spinal health.

If you are experiencing mechanical chronic low back pain and you’re seeking long-term relief, ReActiv8 is here to help. ReActiv8 is an FDA-approved neurostimulation device designed to provide restorative relief from low back pain.

Learn More About ReActiv8 Today and Get The Relief You Need!

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