The Thoracolumbar Fascia

In our lower back we have a very important thick band of connective tissue called the thoracolumbar fascia (TLF).
Fascia is like a strong spider web-like material that surrounds and connects most of our body parts including muscles and organs.
Fascia

 

The TLF is very strong and multi-layered. Its function is to provide stability to our lower spine, and help control bending forces.
Many muscles attach into the TLF, and when these muscles contract, they help to stiffen the TLF, which enhances its function. Three of the most important of these muscles are the transverse abdominis (TA), the gluteus maximus (GM), and the multifidis.
The TA is the deepest abdominal muscle that activates to stabilise and protect the pelvis and lower spine. Via its attachment to the sides of the TLF, it acts to tension the fascia, and also controls movement of each lumbar vertebrae.
TA

The GM is the big buttock muscle, and its muscle fibres interact with the outer layer of the TLF. As it contracts and tensions the TLF, it helps to stabilise across the sacro-iliac joints.

The multifidus is a deep muscle in the back just adjacent to the spine and deep to the fascia. A strong and active multifidus and other back muscles help to tension and stiffen the TLF from within, as well as directly attaching and controlling each spinal segment.
Multifidus
The TLF is also possibly a source of low back pain. There have been pain receptors found within the fascia, though at this stage the research teams are still determining the significance of this.
When RHP physiotherapists are assessing and managing your spinal pains, we are very conscious of the interplay between fascia, muscles and joints. Our exercise programs are designed in part to enhance the function of the thoracolumbar fascia, to help with the integrity and support of your spine.
If you are experiencing back pain, please feel free to contact us for your initial assessment. RHP Physiotherapists have many years of experience treating various kinds of back pain and we look forward to assisting to get back to full health.