The Muscles of the Back

muscles of the back

The muscles of the back help stabilize the spine and control trunk movements. They start at the base of the skull and extend across the shoulders, hips, and spine, attaching to the ribs and vertebrae. One small muscle of the back is the Levator scapulae. It begins at the side of the neck and extends to the scapula. The rhomboids connect the scapula to the spine.

Latissimus dorsi

Latissimus dorsis is a triangular muscle in the mid-back. Unlike other back muscles, this muscle does not originate from the myotomal dorsal epaxial division of the somite. In its origin, it lies in the pectoralis major axilla. From here, it spreads over the posterior side of the thorax.


The spine is composed of four muscles: iliocostalis dorsi, latissimus dorsi, and spinalis. They attach to the head and the thoracic and lumbar spines. Each has a specific insertion. The Splenius capitis is a deep back muscle associated with rotating the head. The length of the muscle is long and its shape is resembling a broad strap.


The iliocostalis is a group of muscles that spans the entire back. It is divided into lumbar, thoracic, and cervical parts. The iliocostalis thoracis arises from the lower six ribs and inserts to the transverse process of vertebra C7. The iliocostalis lumborum attaches to the ribs of the fifth to the twelfth vertebra.

Quadratus lumborum

The quadratus lumborum is a large muscle located in the lower back. It attaches to the transverse processes of the lumbar spine and the posterior iliac crest. Its position is critical for stabilizing the vertebral column. It can be easily located by palpating it with the fingers. The muscle has four major divisions, each of which controls the lumbar spine.


The interspinales muscles of the back are segmental paired muscles that control movement at individual intervertebral junctions. These muscles also provide sensory feedback necessary for correct postural alignment. When activated unilaterally, they aid in lateral flexion of the spine. They are responsible for the stabilization of the spine during flexion and extension. Interspinales muscles are located in the cervical region, lumbar region, and the thoracic spine.

Spinalis cervicis

The Spinalis cervicis is a group of muscles in the back that stretches between the spinous processes of the cervical and thoracic vertebrae. It is the smallest of the three spinal muscle columns, and consists of two parts, the thoracic and the cervicis. The longissimus originates from the lower portion of the nuchal ligament, and its attachment to the first and second thoracic vertebrae is on the inferior nuchal line. The longissimus is often inseparably connected with the semispinalis capitis.

Splenius capitis

The splenius capitis muscle is a broad strap-like muscle that runs along the back of the neck. Its role is to pull the base of the skull away from the vertebrae in the neck and upper thorax. Because it is a postural muscle, it can become injured or fatigued, resulting in headaches, neck pain, and limited range of motion. Listed below are some exercises to stretch the splenius capitis muscle.

Rhomboid minor

The rhomboids are the deep layer of back muscles that run from the scapula to the trapezius. They are often referred to as Christmas tree muscles. There are two main groups of rhomboids: the major and minor. The major attaches to the spinous processes of vertebrae T2 to T5 and the minor attaches to the scapula’s dorsal and costal sides.

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