You have a sheath of fascia in the small of your back. It’s called the thoracolumbar fascia and it is the center of movement.
I am fascinated by fascia. In simple terms, it’s the stuff that holds us together. Not only that, but the body uses fascia to transmit force, and so as an athlete, you need to be aware of how it works. Fascia is tough, rich in nerve endings and can undergo small contractions. One of the most important fascial structures in the body is found in the small of the back, and is called the thoracolumbar fascia.
Let’s say that you are starting up a petrol lawnmower, the type with a pull cord. Say you pull with your right arm- several different muscles will be used: your right shoulder muscles; muscles down the center of your spine, your left lower back and into your glute and leg muscle. The transmission of force will pull your back in a cross sectional pattern. This fascial layer links your upper extremities with your lower extremities. Try to punch a bag by only moving your arm. You will notice that you have very little power. Now rotate your right shoulder into the punch, while pulling your right hip forward and your left leg back. The difference in force is huge. Ignore this area when people have sport, work or car accident related injuries, and you run the risk of the person never fully recovering.
So forces moving through the back in an X like pattern: buttock, lower back, sacroiliac joint, piriformis, hamstring, trapezius and shoulder muscles are a. all linked, and b. can adversely affect each other.
Thoracolumbar Fascia and Back Pain.
Back pain is complex and can have several different causes from vertebral issues, disc problems, muscles etc. However, there is a growing body of evidence that suggests that the thoracolumbar fascia might play a role.
“You are about 70 trillion cells all humming in relative harmony; fascia is the 3-D spider web of fibrous, gluey, and wet proteins that hold them all together in their proper placement.” Tom Myers – Anatomy Trains.
You often come across people who have a glute issue coupled with a lower back issue and a sore shoulder. Are these isolated injuries, or, is it possible that they are all connected – and connected via the thoracolumbar fascia, (remember – everything is connected).
Here are some of the muscles that connect with the fascia:
– latissimus dorsi
– quadratus lumborum
– spinae erectors
The fascia is also attached to bony structures such as:
– iliac crest of the hip
– sacrum, ribs
– spinous processes.
It is also important to understand that fascia is densely packed with nerves, and so can become one of the main sources of pain.
Most movement goes through the thoracolumbar fascia. Walking, climbing stairs, running, cycling, swimming, rowing, standing etc. Any time movement is transferred via the back, legs, hips or shoulders, you are using the fascia in question. Most often, the force will be driven across the back in an X pattern.
So, if you suffer from back pain – including lower back pain, or hip issues including sacroiliac joint issues, tight quadratus lumborums, or shoulder issues – you might just need to get that fascia freed up. Appreciate the small of your back – many of your movement patterns are transmitted via it.