How to Strengthen Your Erector Spinae Muscles
The Erector Spinae muscle group is the biggest tool in your arsenal against fighting the human arch-nemesis known as gravity. This is a large muscle group in your back that is responsible for a whole lot!
So let's learn about how they work and what can happen if they start losing their battle.
Your Erector Spinae muscles consist of three muscles: the Iliocostalis, Longissimus, and Spinalis.
Running parallel to the spine, the erectors span from the base of the skull to the pelvis. The primary function of the Erector Spinae muscle group is to hold us upright, hence the name erect! But if you're sitting for long periods of time with poor, leaned over posture, those muscles are going to be in a lot of pain.
The Erector Spinae Muscles
This helps you look up with your head, and turn it side to side. It's the smallest of the three muscles, and it sits closest to the spine. It is divided into three sections: the Thoracis, Cervicis, and the Capitis.
This helps turn the head to the sides as well. But it also enables you to bend to the sides and extend the spine. It also has three sections (much like the Spinalis): the Thoracis, Cervicis, and the Capitis.
This muscle group also helps bend to the side and extend the spine. It also has three parts to it, though slightly different names than the previous two sections: the Lumborum, Thoracis, and the Cervicis.
Erector Spinae Pain Symptoms
The Erector Spinae can cause back pain quite often due to them being strained relatively easily. Any type of bending or twisting motion will usually affect them, which also tends to be the precursor to a pulled back muscle or ‘throwing your back out’. If it's not the QL, it's probably your erectors. Some typical symptoms are:
- Sudden onset after bending or twisting movement
- Muscle spasm or pain on one side of the spine, usually in low to upper back
- Pain in the lower back that radiates to hips or buttocks
- Bending or twisting that causes pain
- Pain when trying to turn your head
Why Are They So Important?
Long story short, they hold us up! That means we need them now more than ever!
With sedentary lifestyles becoming more common and technology pulling our heads and spines forward, our erectors are being chronically lengthened. The result is a weakness in these muscles. The pain you're feeling often comes from weaknesses and overstretching of these muscles.
The weakness in a muscle or muscle group results in feelings of tightness. This is why we always feel the need to “stretch” them. But remember that stretching is a short term relief strategy that will only push your problems further down the road. You must strengthen them!
How to Fix Your Erector Spinae Muscles
Strengthen, Don't Stretch!
These muscles already get stretched all day! If you think you may have weak or dysfunctional Erector Spinae muscles, there are a few straightforward ways to start rebuilding strength.
First and foremost is to work on improving your posture by sitting tall and not slouching throughout your day. This is going to be very difficult at first, so don't beat yourself up about it. Just continually bring attention to your posture throughout the day, and if you find yourself slouching, remember to sit tall again. Think about pulling your head back, like you are eavesdropping on a conversation behind you. The simplest exercise for recruiting the spinal erectors is known as a superman.
Train Your Core! Not your Abs!
Most people don't even think of our backs as our core, but you should. The core basically wraps around your entire body and is responsible for holding you up straight, as long as you remember to engage those muscles and make them strong.
Think of your core as a cylinder. If you only ever strengthen your abs and never think about your back, your cylinder may start looking like the Leaning Tower of Pisa. Adding in rotational movements, and extension based exercises will ensure you are building a functionally stable core! As we mentioned above, the superman is a great movement for strengthening your back.
Conclusion: Strength is the Key
If there is anything you take from this, strengthening is the key to solving your pain. There is no magic stretch or exercise. Applying stretches and strengthening exercises along with postural awareness throughout your day is the only way to truly fix your body.
The MoveU Program is designed specifically to teach you how! From start to finish, the MoveU program guides you to strengthen your body into alignment and stop your pain. No more ‘pain relief' no more ‘quick fixes,' just hard work that results in long term results.