The Latissimus dorsi muscle – Lats for short. Is the most powerful muscle of the back. When this muscle gets overworked and shortens it can cause lower back pain and aggravation / pain in base of the neck. The Lat originates from your lumbar fascia, lower thoracic spine, and pelvic bone. The main role of this muscle is to bring the arm into extension and adduction (closer to the body). It also is an internal rotator of the shoulder joint.
Activities that involve rowing, overhead against resistance, and throwing put stress on this muscle, as it contracts very strongly initially in rowing and late in the cocking phase of throwing. Acceleration of the arm as in throwing type activities involve lengthening contraction of the Lat. which makes this muscle prone to injury.
If this muscle gets overworked enough is will become so tight that as it tries to assist in deep breathing pain may develop in the sides of the chest. The Lat. is a tremendously important stabelizer and acts as a bridge between the lower back and the neck. Since the muslce is so large the neck and the entire middle and lower back may have to be treated in order to treat this muscle properly.
Without the Lat. functioning properly, lifting type activities will be performed by shoulder shrugging further increasing lower neck pain along the slope of the shoulders which is primarily from pain in the trapezius and levator scapulae muscles. Pain in the trapezius muscle area will thus recur unless the latissimus dorsi muscle is first treated. Similarly, in low back pain treatment the Lat. must be examined because of its insertions into the thoracolumbar fascia and attachments into the pelvic bone.
Weight training must be carefully controlled due to the importance of the muscle. To increase the power of this muscle it should be trained with the following exercises:
chin-up and pull-up
one handed dumbbell-rows
pull-down (be careful not to over recruit traps.)
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