Hi everyone. Today I wanted to briefly discuss lower back pain.
Did you know that 3.1 million americans experience lower back pain at any given time?And that one half of all working americans admit to having back pain symptoms each year?
Back pain is one of the most common reasons for missed work. In fact, back pain is the second most common reason for visits to the doctors office, out numbered only by upper respiratory infections. Most back cases are mechanical or non organic, meaning they are not caused by serious conditions, such as inflammatory arthritis, infection, fracture or cancer. Experts estimate that as many as 80% of the population will experience a back problem at some time in our lives.
So now that I’ve given you some facts, here is a little advice on how you can prevent this from happening to you. And, if you are currently one of the statistics, some advice on how you can manage your back pain. I am going to do a brief breakdown of what I call the 3 headed monster approach to back pain relief.
Flexibility, Core & Functional Strength.
When people come to us with lower back pain, we find that they try to address their problem by only using one of the 3 heads of the monster we call back pain. They try some flexibility or core or strength, but never the three combined. There needs to be an integrated approach to tame the monster. You see, if you only do one of the three, you just prolong the inevitable and the back pain will return, I promise you. So, today we will talk brief on flexibility.
We will start with the role of hamstring flexibility on lower back pain. This is often overlooked, and many people spend time stretching their lower back, but neglect to incorporate the surrounding muscle structures that support the hips and lower back. Your hamstrings attach from your knee to your ishium (your butt bone). Therefore, when your hamstrings are tight, they can pull on your ishium which then pulls on your lower back, flattening it. This takes out the natural inward curve, which we know can be harmful to your lower back.
Now, let’s move on to some other key muscles that need to be addressed in order to create relief on your lower back.
Your hip flexor muscle attaches from your hip and part of it attaches to the vertebrae in your lower back. Therefore, when your hip flexor muscles are tight, they can pull your lower back into more of an arched position, placing additional strain on it. Your hip flexor is a deep muscle in the front of your hip, and when it is tight it can cause a hip flexor injury.
Your quadricep muscle attaches from your knee and part of it attaches to the ASIS (anterior superior iliac spine). The ASIS is that bone in the front of your hip that sticks out. Therefore, when your hip flexor muscles are tight, they can pull your iliac bone which then pulls your lower back into more of an arched position, placing additional strain on it. Your quadricep muscle is also known as your thigh muscle.
Your piriformis muscle attaches from your hip to your sacrum (base of your back). Therefore, when your piriformis muscle is tight, it can pull on your sacrum, which then pulls on your lower back, placing additional strain on it. Your piriformis is a deep muscle in your buttock region. Therefore, it can literally be a big pain in the butt!
So, as you can see, there are a lot of muscles that need to have proper length tension relationships to their opposing muscle groups. If not, you end up with imbalance, or improper and unwanted tension on muscles that contribute to the pull on the pelvis which increases the stress to the lower back.
So, it is not enough to just stretch, but to stretch the right muscles needed to alleviate the stress or tension on the lower back. Earlier I spoke of the the 3 headed approach. Now it may start to become clear why core strength and functional strength are a must.
In order to stretch the muscles properly, your core has to be strong enough to stabilize the spine. Keep in mind that any imbalances increase the tension wires, creating a greater demand on the core to stabilize and protect the lower back. Now, without functional strength, the surrounding structures cannot do their part to support the core. This is why, in order to combat low back pain, an integrated approach must be taken. I hope you find this informative and stay tuned for my next blog, where I will go over how to stretch these muscles properly.