Lower Back Pain

The Connection Between Back Muscles and Thoracolumbar Fascia

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Can the thoracolumbar fascia cause or contribute to lower back pain and inflammation?

Thoracolumbar Fascia

Tissue behind the spinal column, positioned at both the lower back and mid-back levels, is connected to the thoracolumbar fascia, also called the lumbodorsal fascia or LF. The fascia is a thick connective tissue that covers and supports all the body’s muscles, bones, tendons, ligaments, and organs. The fascia also contains nociceptive nerve endings, also known as free nerve endings, that arise from the central nervous system, i.e., the brain and spinal cord, which may be responsible for some forms of back pain and stiffness caused by injury or inflammation.

Anatomy

The thoracolumbar fascia is divided into three layers:

  1. Back or posterior layer.
  2. Middle layer
  3. Front or anterior layer. (Willard, F. H. et al., 2012)

Many of the back muscles attach to the thoracolumbar fascia. The erector spinae muscle group, known as the paraspinals, runs longitudinally down the spine. They are attached to the thoracolumbar fascia and the bony spine. The lumbar part of the posterior layer of the thoracolumbar fascia extends from the lowest rib to the top of the hip bone or the iliac crest. On the same path, it connects with the transverse abdominal muscle. The thoracolumbar fascia connections help bridge the back muscles to the abdominal wall muscles. The latissimus dorsi, a large back muscle that bears and moves the body’s weight with the arms and shoulders, is also connected to the thoracolumbar fascia, with the fibers extending outward from the fascia. The front part of the thoracolumbar fascia, or anterior layer, covers a muscle called the quadratus lumborum. This muscle bends the trunk to the side, helps maintain a healthy posture, and is often focused on muscle-related lower back pain.

What the Fascia Does

The thoracolumbar fascia, examined from the back of an anatomical drawing or diagram, is diamond-shaped. Its shape, large size, and central location uniquely position it to unify and synchronize the upper body’s movements with the lower body’s. The fascia’s fibers are very strong, enabling the tissue sheath to lend support (Willard, F. H. et al., 2012) . The tissue is also flexible, enabling it to help circulate forces of movement and contralateral movements as the back muscles contract and relax. An example is walking.

Back Pain

Scientists and doctors don’t know for sure, but it’s possible that the thoracolumbar fascia may contribute to lower back pain. A study found that the fascia may generate back pain based on: (Wilke, J. et al., 2017)

  • Sustaining micro-injuries and/or inflammation, which are often related, may cause signal changes in the free nerve endings in the fascia. Nerve endings acquire information from the outer areas of the body, like skin and other fascia, and relay it back to the central nervous system. The theory is that when the fascia close to the skin becomes injured, damaged, and/or backed up with inflammatory chemicals and substances, it is communicated as pain and other sensations back to the brain and spinal cord.
  • After a back injury, tissues tighten and stiffen. Some studies of patients with back pain noted alterations in their thoracolumbar fascia.
  • Injuries tend to stimulate nerves, which can lead to increased sensitivity.

Injury Medical Chiropractic and Functional Medicine Clinic focuses on and treats injuries and chronic pain syndromes through personalized care plans that improve ability through flexibility, mobility, and agility programs to relieve pain. Our providers use an integrated approach to create personalized care plans for each patient, including Functional Medicine, Acupuncture, Electro-Acupuncture, and Sports Medicine principles. Our goal is to relieve pain naturally by restoring health and function to the body. If other treatment is needed, Dr. Jimenez has teamed up with top surgeons, clinical specialists, medical researchers, and rehabilitation providers to provide the most effective treatments.


Sciatica, Causes, Symptoms, and Tips


References

Willard, F. H., Vleeming, A., Schuenke, M. D., Danneels, L., & Schleip, R. (2012). The thoracolumbar fascia: anatomy, function and clinical considerations. Journal of anatomy, 221(6), 507–536. doi.org/10.1111/j.1469-7580.2012.01511.x

Wilke, J., Schleip, R., Klingler, W., & Stecco, C. (2017). The Lumbodorsal Fascia as a Potential Source of Low Back Pain: A Narrative Review. BioMed research international, 2017, 5349620. doi.org/10.1155/2017/5349620

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The information herein on "The Connection Between Back Muscles and Thoracolumbar Fascia" is not intended to replace a one-on-one relationship with a qualified health care professional or licensed physician and is not medical advice. We encourage you to make healthcare decisions based on your research and partnership with a qualified healthcare professional.

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