This is one of the biggest muscles in the body. Its name in Latin means “widest of the back”. The latissimus dorsi muscle starts at the top of the bony crest in your low back called the iliac crest and comes up along your spine and then attaches to the inner part of your arm just below the shoulder joint (glenohumeral joint). This muscle is also called the swimmer’s muscle because it does most of the work through the freestyle stroke (crawl stroke). The latissimus dorsi is also very important for climbing because when our arm is above us, it the latissimus dorsi that brings our body up to our arm. It is no wonder that the latissimus dorsi gets so much love in work out room. In the weight room they are called the “lats”. It is this muscle that gives a persons back the characteristic “V” shape in someone that works out a lot.
A tale tell sign that you are having trouble with your latissimus dorsi is if you are having more low back pain when you are walking than sitting or standing.* The most common injury that I see to the latissimus dorsi is muscle strain. Strains can be minor or severe. However, even a mild latissimus dorsi strain can cause some pretty severe pain because it is such a diverse muscle in charge of so many different movements. The stories that I usually hear in conjunction with a strained latissimus dorsi go something like this: “I was working out in my yard yesterday. It didn’t hurt while I was doing the yard work but today, I can barely move.”
*This is not the only thing that can cause low back pain when walking. There are far more serious problems that cause pain while standing and walking so if you are having this problem make sure you get it looked at by an appropriate health care provider.