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Getting “back” to class

Updated: Feb 26, 2019

How strengthening the right muscles can relieve low back pain

By Rachel Sutter-Leve, PT, DPT


Back pain is a common complaint of dancers. Some dancers experience an episode of excruciating, sharp pain while others report that it slowly crept up over time. Regardless of whether it was the latter or former, pain in your back can be a season ending or career changing injury.


The most challenging part of having a back injury is knowing what to do about it. A quick google search online can leave you with more questions than when you started. Should I ice or heat? Should I rest my back or should I try and keep moving? Does my back need to be strengthened or is it overworked? All of these are really common questions we get at the clinic, and the answer is not as simple as “yes” or “no”. Ice can be helpful in reducing inflammation, but heat can also help relax muscles. Likely a period of rest is indicated following a major injury, but we also want you to keep moving .


The easiest question for me to answer, however, is the last one. Do I need to strengthen my back? Yes! One of the most common causes for repeat back injuries are not just weak back muscles but specifically weakness in the back muscles called the “multifidi” or “multifidus”. While you have many back muscles, the multifidus is a special one because it not only functions to stabilize you, but it also functions to move each separate bone in your back so that you can get that beautiful articulation you need for dance. Strengthening the multifidus can be challenging but it is well worth your time. One study showed that a weak multifidus can not only cause pain in your back but also in your hips!


So, the next time you are wondering what is causing this constant ache in your low back, consider the multifidus. Come into the clinic and we can check it out!


1: Gildea JE, Hides JA, Hodges PW. Size and symmetry of trunk muscles in ballet dancers with and without low back pain. J Orthop Sports Phys Ther. 2013 Aug;43(8):525-33. doi: 10.2519/jospt.2013.4523. Epub 2013 Apr 30. PubMed PMID: 23633627.

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