The Erector Spinae The Spine Muscles

Editor's Note: When you see these three dots surrounded by a gray rectangle — 1 — you can click on it to get further information about the topic. Click a second time, and the message goes away.

This article was edited and updated on November 17, 2019.

Erector Spinae? What's that?

The Erector Spinae (pronounced e-rec-tor speen-aye or e-rec-tor spinae-ee) is not just one muscle, but a complex group of muscles (combined with tendons) in the back. It extends through the lumbar, thoracic and cervical regions of the spine, and lies in the groove to the side of the vertebral column.

The Erector Spinae varies in size and structure — from narrow and pointed to thick and fleshy — depending on where it is located along the vertebral column. Different sections also have different names. 2

The muscular fibres form a large fleshy mass which splits in the upper lumbar region into three columns and are identified as:

Functions of the Erector Spinae

The iliocostalis muscles help us to extend the spine and keep our posture erect if working together; they permit lateral bending if one side contracts.

The longissimus muscles assist in spinal extension and lateral flexion.

The spinalis muscles aid in spinal extension.

For definitions of flexion and extension, see Fitness Terms Dictionary or Planes of Movement.

Injuries of the Erector Spinae

The back is a complicated and intricate structure. Injuries can occur during daily activities like sports, gardening, or housework, or in a more serious situation like car accidents. The lower back is the most common site of back injuries and back pain. Common injuries include sprains and strains, but more serious injuries can include herniated disks and fractured vertebrae.

These injuries can limit your movement, and treatments will vary depending on the location and severity of the injury — from icing to bed rest to physiotherapy to surgery.

Back injuries — and particularly lower back injuries — are more likely if the abdominal muscles lack strength and endurance, so strong abdominal muscles are important. Some injuries might be prevented by maintaining a healthy weight, lifting objects with your legs and using lower-back support when you sit.

Exercises for the Erector Spinae

Here are four exercises which will help strengthen the Erector Spinae (choose the weight size which is most appropriate for your situation):

Stretches for the Erector Spinae

See also: Back Problems

For discussions of other muscles, see:

I am a BCRPA-certified fitness instructor in Vancouver, BC. I teach four classes at the West End Community Centre in Vancouver, BC, mostly designed for the older adult. The Inevitable Disclaimer: Everything published here expresses only my opinion, based on my training and research. What you do with the information is entirely your own responsibility. I am not liable for any injury you suffer that seems to be related to anything you read here. Always consult your doctor before beginning an exercise program. For other articles, return to the table of contents.

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  1. These three dots behave exactly like a footnote. Click on them and you will get more information about the topic. 

  2. This set of muscles is very complex, yet very important.