A common cause for low back pain actually has very little to do with the low back itself. Many times muscle imbalances in the muscles that surround the hip are the culprit. Muscles like the glutes, IT band, hip flexors, hamstrings, and quadriceps can lead to decreased motion throughout the hip joint, which forces the back to work harder to make up for the lost motion. This can lead to an irritable and cranky back.
Imagine if you and a co-worker were hired to move 1,000 boxes across the street. Over the course of the day, you move 900 of them while your coworker only moves 100 – you’re tired and cranky, right? That’s what happens when the hip girdle doesn’t do its fair share of the work, it transfers that work to its coworkers (the back and the knees, typically) leading to pain and irritation in these now overworked areas.
The good news is there are a few stretches, exercises and foam-rolling techniques you can do at home that can really help.
Glutes – recent studies indicate that gluteus medius muscles tend to be weaker and more tender in people with low back pain. Foam rolling and strengthening the gluteus muscles can go a long way toward relieving low back pain. Gently roll the glutes out over a foam roller, holding for a few seconds on tender spots (be sure not to hold for more than a few seconds as you don’t want to further irritate the muscle).
To strengthen the gluteus medius try the clamshell exercise. A good goal is 25 repetitions on each side at least 3x/week, however, you may need to start out with less and work up to 25 repetitions. Be careful not to rock your hips back as you perform this exercise, the focus should be on the glutes, the pelvis should not move.
Hip flexors – the hip flexors are commonly tight in people who suffer from low back pain, especially in those who sit for a good part of the day for work. The hip flexors actually connect to the lumbar spine, so the tension in this area can quickly lead to low back pain.
To stretch these muscles, kneel on the floor, or place your knee over a chair. Lunge forward, keeping your back straight. Be careful not the lean forward as this will place additional stress on your low back. You should feel a stretch along the front of your hip and thigh. Don’t push too far, a light stretch is all that is needed. Hold for 10-15 seconds and release, repeat 3-5 times a day.
For a complete assessment of your low back or knee pain, make an appointment with one of our chiropractors to have your muscles, spine, and movement checked. Our doctors are happy to help you determine what exercises, stretches and other therapies, including massage therapy, acupuncture, or chiropractic are best suited to treat the pain you are experiencing.
Dr. Vicki Gadzacka