Rotatores Muscles: Action, Origin & Insertion

Instructor: Dan Washmuth

Dan has taught college Nutrition, Anatomy, Physiology, and Sports Nutrition courses and has a master's degree in Dietetics & Nutrition.

Do you know how many muscles make up the rotatores muscle? If you do not know the answer to this question and want to learn other interesting facts about the rotatores muscles, be sure to read this lesson!

Rotatores Muscles

Do you know if your rotatores muscles are working? If you are like most people, you probably haven't even heard of the rotatores muscles. (Don't worry if this is you; these muscles are not well known muscles). However, it is pretty easy to check to see if these muscles are working. All you have to do is follow these easy steps:

  1. Stand up with your arms hanging naturally at your sides.
  2. Twist your back to your left.
  3. Now twist your back to your right.
  4. Now bend over and touch your toes. (It's okay if you are not flexible enough to reach your toes.)
  5. Now bend your back slightly backwards so you can look directly above you.

If you were able to do these five steps, its seems as though your rotatores muscles are working quite nicely!

The rotatores muscles are a group of 22 small, four-sided muscles found on the vertebrae of the spine. Specifically, these 22 muscles are found in the thoracic region of the spinal column (middle of the spine). There are 11 rotatores muscles on each side of the thoracic vertebrae (11 x 2 = 22).

The rotatores muscles are located on each side of the thoracic vertebrae.
vertebral column

Rotatores Muscles: Origin

Each of the rotatores muscles originates from the transverse processes of a thoracic vertebra. The transverse processes are bony prominences that stick out the back sides of each vertebra. These prominences function to provide areas on the vertebrae to which muscles and tendons can attach.

Rotatores Muscles: Insertion

Each of the rotatores muscles inserts or attaches to the spinous process of the thoracic vertebra that is located either one or two vertebra above its originating vertebra. For example, if one of the rotatores muscles originates from the left transverse processes of the 11th thoracic vertebra, it will insert or attach to the spinous process of the 9th or 10th thoracic vertebra. The spinous process is a bony prominence that sticks out the back of the vertebrae.

The rotatores muscles originate from the transverse processes of the thoracic vertebrae and insert on the spinous processes.

Rotatores Muscles: Action

Based on the activity from the beginning of the lesson, as well as the location of the rotatores muscles, you probably guessed that these muscles function to move the spine and back. (If this was your guess, then you were right!). Specifically, these muscles cause the following actions of the back/spine:

  • Lateral rotation: twisting toward one side of the body, such as when you turn around to look behind you
  • Flexion: bending forward, such as when you tie your shoes
  • Extension: bending backwards, such as when you are looking straight above your head

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