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Spine and Back Health

Function of the Latissimus Dorsi



I have a very bad pain in the latissimus dorsi muscle area of my back. My doctor gave me Norflex to help with the pain. I get pain also on my side. Does this muscle wrap around to the sides? I also got a stabbing pain when I was combing my hair and when I carry any thing in that hand. Does that muscle have any thing to do with the movement of my arm? What is its function?


Hello, thank you for your question. The lat is a large muscle that originates from multiple points along the spine, and inserts onto the humerus (the arm bone between the shoulder and elbow). Its primary function is to pull the arm downwards. It is the primary muscle that is used when doing exercises such as chinups or what are called 'pulldowns' at the gym. It is also strongly involved in exercises called 'dips', where the person gets onto parallel bars or between two grips on either side of the body, supports their body weight on their hands with the arms straight down at the sides, then bends at the elbows and shoulders until the body 'dips' down and then pushes back up. The lat doesn't do much in terms of arm movement except when pulling the arm down as I've described. I hope this helps. Good luck.

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Response by:

David J Hart, MD David J Hart, MD
Associate Professor of Neurosurgery
School of Medicine
Case Western Reserve University