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Q. What are some effective cues for multifidus activation?    

A. The multifidus muscle is a series of muscles that are attached to the spinal column providing it with support and relieving pressure off of vertebral discs so that body weight is properly distributed along the spine.

Tactile cues work exceptionally well with the multifidus particularly in the lumbar region of the spine. Words such as "swelling", “humming” or "stabilizing" seem to help with cueing, depending upon your client.

The challenge is how to palpate the multifidus, close to the spinous process, but not stimulate or over stimulate the large erector spinae. For example, if the client is able to achieve a flexed position over a Stability Ball™ or BOSU®, then the multifidus can be found easier. However, if your client cannot flex, then lying prone on the mat or prone over the Stability Ball in neutral will also work.

Standing is not as effective, as the large anti-gravity muscles are superficial and the small multifidus cannot be felt. Challenging the body to maintain axial skeleton stability while moving one limb or appendage in any and all planes of movement will also provide the proprioceptive input and the stability of rotational movement to help facilitate multifidus activation.


See this month’s Exercise of the Month featuring swimming prep on the Halo® Trainer for an example of this. 

Additional exercise options: hamstring press hips down on the Split-Pedal Stability Chair™ (for rotational challenge), unilateral back rowing, unilateral arms pulling straps, swimming preps)

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Sarah Jarvis

Sarah Jarvis

Program Coordinator, Education and Lead Instructor Trainer