Tag Archives: #lowerbackpain

The Deleterious Effects of Sitting on Back Health

You have lately heard that sitting puts more pressure on your spine than standing, and the toll on your back health is even worse if you're sitting hunched in front of a computer. Indeed, the disks in your back are meant to expand and contract as you move, which allows them to absorb blood and nutrients. When you sit, the disks are compressed and can lose flexibility over time. Sitting excessively can also increase your risk of herniated disks.

Many internet posts suggest that "sitting is the new smoking", painting a rather drab picture, for most of us, however the fact that we are required to spend a great part of our day in a seated position, shouldn't necessarily mean "we are doomed" (like most of these posts tend to suggest!)

It is important to recognize that continuous standing can also be problematic. The key is MOVEMENT.

Sometimes back pain occurs suddenly, seemingly out of nowhere, but oftentimes it occurs only after months or years of poor posture, repetitive motions, improper lifting, tension and strains. In addition to stopping the offending movements (for instance, swapping out your desk chair for a standing desk), the following forms of exercise may help.

Stretching

In  recent study, participants who took 52-minute stretching classes (which emphasized trunk and leg stretches) received as much back-pain relief as those taking yoga classes.

Strength Training

A regular  strength training routine will help strengthen your back and core muscles, which is essential for both relieving pain and preventing injury.

 Yoga

Is particularly useful for promoting flexibility and core muscles, has been proven to be beneficial if you suffer from back pain.

People suffering from low-back pain who took one yoga class a week had greater improvements in function than those receiving medicine or physical therapy.

Tai Chi

Is an ancient form of self-defense that is said to support the balance of "yin and yang" in your body, thereby improving the flow of "qi," or life energy.

Often described as "meditation in motion" or "moving meditation," the activity takes your body through a specific set of graceful movements.  Your body is constantly in motion and each movement flows right into the next. A 10-week tai chi program has been found to improve pain and disability in people with persistent low-back pain.

Additional Steps to Help Remedy Back Pain

Once you understand that back pain is typically the result of poor posture, improper or inadequate movement and/or emotional trauma, the remedy becomes clear — get regular exercise, move often (the way your body was designed to) and tend to your emotional health. You can also try:

 

Vitamin D and K2  Optimize your  Vitamin D and K levelsto prevent the softening of the bones that may lead to lower back pain. Low vitamin D levels are common in people with chronic low back pain
Stay hydrated Drink plenty of water to enhance the height of your intervertebral disks. Because your body is composed mostly of water, keeping yourself hydrated will also keep you fluid and reduce stiffness.
Avoid smoking  Smoking reduces blood flow to your lower spine and promotes degeneration of your spinal disks.
Pay attention to your sleeping habits Studies have linked insufficient sleep with increased back and neck problems. Also pay attention to your sleep position. Sleep on your side to reduce curving of your spine, and stretch before getting out of bed. A firm bed is recommended.
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False Sciatica

" False Sciatica" a.k.a "Piriformis Syndrome", refers to pain that begins in the hip and buttocks and continues all the way down the leg. This condition is often accompanied by low back pain, which can be more or less severe than the leg pain. In addition to pain, other sensations include spasms, tingling or numbness along the sciatic nerve that can travel down the hamstrings, legs and feet. These symptoms can be bilateral or can occur on one side.

What causes False Sciatica?

The cause of Sciatica can range from a misaligned vertebra or disc, to tightened muscles surrounding these structures, to tightened muscles anywhere along the length of the sciatic nerve. It is called true sciatica when a herniated lumbar disc compresses one of the contributing roots of the sciatic nerve. It is called false sciatica when contracted musculature in the buttocks or lower extremity compresses the sciatic nerve. The symptoms are the same for true or false sciatica.

The sciatic nerve passes through a mass of the hip’s external rotator muscles. The sciatic nerve exits the greater sciatic foramen and can run superficial to, deep to or even through the pirformis muscle. Spasm in the piriformis muscle can cause compression on the sciatic nerve sending pain, tingling and numbness down the posterior leg. This description falls into the category of false sciatica and is referred to as piriformis muscle syndrome.

Sciatica

False Piriformis Syndrome

Piriformis Syndrome is sometimes referred to as “back pocket” sciatica. People that keep a wallet in their back pocket and sit on it throughout the day often develop symptoms of pain in the rear and down the leg. The extra pressure on the buttocks can cause tightening of the buttock muscles which can compress the sciatic nerve. In “back pocket” sciatica, the removal of the offending wallet usually brings relief.

Treatment

In general,  soft tissue manipulation techniques such as deep tissue massage, active release therapy and Graston, applied to the offending muscles (overly tight) will bring relief, as well as continued stretching. once the previously inhibited tissues have regained pliability.

If this is a condition that seems  to describe your symptoms, do not hesitate to make an appointment with a qualified Registered Massage Therapist, so that he/she can get to the "butt" of the issue, and send you merely on your way back to recovery! (Cheesy pun totally intended!)

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Do Tight Hip Flexors Correlate With Weak Glutes?

Lower crossed syndrome, as originally described by Vladimir Janda several decades ago, is commonly sited to describe the muscle imbalances observed with anterior pelvic tilt posture.

Indeed, Janda described lower crossed syndrome to explain how certain muscle groups in the lumbopelvic area get tight, while the antagonists get weak or inhibited.  Or, as Phil Page describes in his book overviewing the Janda Approach, “Weakness from from muscle imbalances results from reciprocal inhibition of the tight antagonist.”

When you look at a drawing of this concept, you can see how it starts to make sense.  Tightness in the hip flexors and low back are associated with weakness of abdominals and glutes.

Lower Cross Syndrome

 

I realize this is a very two dimensional approach and probably not completely accurate in it’s presentation, however it not only seems to make biomechanical sense, it also correlates to what I see in practice everyday.

Yet despite the common acceptance of these imbalance patterns, there really isn’t much research out there looking at these correlations.

Yes.. They absolutely do!

Do Tight Hip Flexors Correlate to Glute WeaknessA recent study was publish in the International Journal of Sports Physical Therapy looking at the EMG activity between the two-hand and one-hand kettlebell swing.  While I enjoyed the article and comparision of the two KB swing variations, the authors had one other finding that peaked my interest even more.  And if you just read the title of the paper, you would have never seen it!

In the paper, the authors not only measured glute EMG activity during the kettlebell swing, but they also measure hip flexor mobility using a modified Thomas Test.  The authors found moderate correlations between hip flexor tightness and glute EMG activity.

The tighter your hip flexors, the less EMG was observed in the glutes during the kettlebell swing.

While this has been theorized since Janda first described in the 1980’s, to my knowledge this is the first study that has shown this correlation during an exercise.

 

Implications

It’s often the little findings of study that help add to our body of knowledge.  This simple study showed us that there does appear to be a correlated between your hip flexor mobility and EMG activity of the glutes.  There are a few implications that you can take from this study:Kettlebell-Swing-e1419741700687

  • Both two-hand and one-hand kettlebell swings are great exercises to strengthen the glutes
  • However, perhaps we need to assure people have adequate hip flexor mobility prior to starting.
  • If trying to strengthen the glutes, it appears that you may also want focus on hip flexor mobility, as is often recommended.
  • So yes, it does appear that hip flexor mobility correlates to glute activity and should be considering when designing programs.
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