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Thoracolumbar Fascia

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Updated May 15, 2012

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Thoracolumbar Fascia

Thoracolumbar Fascia

What The Thoracolumbar Fascia Is:

The term "fascia" refers to thick connective tissue found in different parts of the body. The thoracolumbar fascia is located behind the bony spine at the thoracic and lumbar levels.

From a back view, the thoracolumbar fascia makes a diamond shape. Because of its shape, and its fairly central location on the back, the thoracolumbar fascia is in a position to help unify the movements of the upper body with that of the lower.

Why the Thoracolumbar Fascia Is Unique:

The thoracolumbar fascia is unique because both it supports the back muscles and contributes to their ability to move your body. This is because the fibers that make up fascia are very strong. But fascial tissue also has a degree of flexibility, and this enables the thoracolumbar fascia to assist in transmitting forces of movement as the back muscles contract and relax.

The Three Layers of the Thoracolumbar Fascia:

There are three layers to the thoracolumbar fascia: the back layer (called the posterior layer), the middle layer, and the front layer (called the anterior layer).

Muscles and Their Relation to The Thoracolumbar Fascia:

Many back muscles attach to the thoracolumbar fascia. For example, the erector spinae, a muscle group also known as the paraspinals, run longitudinally down the spine. The paraspinals are attached to the thoracolumbar fascia, as well as to the bony spine.

The lumbar part of the posterior layer of the thoracolumbar fascia extends from the 12th (lowest) rib down to the top of your hip bone (called the iliac crest). Along the way, it connects with the internal oblique abdominal muscle and the transverse abdominal muscle. Because of these connections, the thoracolumbar fascia helps bridge the muscles of the back to the muscles of the abdominal wall.

The latissimus dorsi, a large, superficially located back muscle that plays a major role in bearing and moving the weight of the body with the arms and shoulders, originates from the thoracolumbar fascia. (The fibers of the lats, as this muscle is often called, extend outward from the fascia.)

The front part of the thoracolumbar fascia (the anterior layer) covers a muscle called the quadratus lumborum. The quadratus lumborum bends the trunk to the side and helps maintain a healthy upright posture. The quadratus, as it is sometimes called for short, is often implicated in muscle-related low back pain.

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The Strength of the Thoracolumbar Fascia:

The thoracolumbar fascia is particularly strong in the lumbar area of the back. That strength is reinforced by the fact that it attaches to the spinal bones.

Related: Massage Therapy and How To Choose A Qualified Massage Therapist

Sources:

Loukas M, Shoja MM, Thurston T, Jones VL, Linganna S, Tubbs RS. "Anatomy and biomechanics of the vertebral aponeurosis part of the posterior layer of the thoracolumbar fascia." Surg Radiol Anat. 2008 Mar;30(2):125-9. Epub 2007 Dec 18. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18087664

Moore, K., Dalley, A. Clinically Oriented Anatomy. Fifth. Edition. Lippincott, Williams & Wilkins. 2006. Baltimore.

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